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Sep 1, 2010 11:46 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach considers tapping bow hunters to cull growing deer population

Sep 1, 2010 11:46 AM

Lynda Folz said that living in Westhampton Beach over the last decade, she has seen the local deer population balloon, escalating from a mere nuisance for homeowners to a real hazard for drivers.

“It’s multiple issues,” she said. “Obviously, they’re doing so much damage to the natural flowers and trees and shrubs that can’t be brought back. [But] it’s the overpopulation. It’s the fact that they’re causing accidents.”

Those concerns brought her before the Westhampton Beach Village Board last month, when she implored the municipality to do something to cull the local deer herd.

Now Westhampton Beach is considering a program that would coordinate local bow hunters and open parts of the village for deer hunting—after first securing permission from property owners. The Village Board discussed the program at a work session on August 18, and has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the idea at its next meeting today, Thursday, September 2, at 7 p.m., at Village Hall.

At the work session, board members talked about starting a program similar to that of neighboring Quogue Village. Four years ago, Quogue began pairing licensed bow hunters with residents, who must give the hunters permission to kill deer in their yards from October 15 to December 31, according to Quogue Village Ordinance Inspector Chris Osborne, who oversees the program.

The Quogue program operates within the bounds of existing State Department of Environmental Conservation bow hunting regulations, so it did not require any new village laws, Mr. Osborne said. The village just interviews licensed bow hunters, puts them on a list, runs an annual safety course for them and documents which residents have given the hunters permission to hunt on their land, he said.

Quogue tries to pair hunters together with homeowners to form something of a partnership, Mr. Osborne said. Any deer meat collected goes to the homeowner, the hunter, or is donated to local food pantries, he said. He added that no people have been injured by hunters since the program started.

Mike Clark, a biologist with the DEC who oversees deer management programs on Long Island, said the “biggest hurdle” for residential deer control programs is a state law that prohibits the discharge of firearms within 500 feet of an occupied residence unless the homeowner grants permission. While, in some cases, a person’s home is far enough away from neighboring houses to allow for hunting in his or her yard, neighbors usually need to band together and give collective permission.

And that’s exactly what happens in Quogue, Mr. Osborne said.

“There have been whole neighborhoods that have signed on, where one person who happens to be a year-round resident gets all the permission from all the homeowners in the area,” he said.

Mr. Clark said that complaints about deer are on the rise this season, in part, because the dry weather has been forcing deer to seek out more “succulent” plants, like those that grow in people’s yards. Also, the deer population is actually growing in some places.

“Deer numbers on the East End in areas that do not traditionally have hunting are certainly increasing,” he said.

DEC statistics reveal a steady rise in the deer population in Southampton Town, and Suffolk County at large, over the last 20 years. In 1990, hunters killed 103 deer in Southampton Town; last year, that number jumped to 596 deer, according to the DEC.

Mr. Clark added that the jump in the number of deer being killed by hunters correlates with the area’s growing deer population.

At last month’s work session, both Westhampton Beach Police Chief Ray Dean and Mayor Conrad Teller expressed some reservations about bringing bow hunters into the village, saying that wounded deer could roam the area and disturb residents.

“They could run down Main Street with three arrows in ‘em and collapse in front of shops,” Mr. Teller said at the time.

But in a follow-up interview, the mayor said he does not oppose starting such a bow hunting program in Westhampton Beach.

“We have plenty of deer here, and some of them are pretty fair-sized, I guess,” Mr. Teller said. “I even get them in my own yard.”

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Get out those recipes for venison chili and sausage. Time to start harvesting these moochers.
By clam pie (161), Westhampton on Sep 8, 10 2:06 PM
“They could run down Main Street with three arrows in ‘em and collapse in front of shops,” Mr. Teller said at the time.

Mr. Teller watches too many cartoons.
By omghi (20), EH on Sep 8, 10 7:42 PM
Right on, Connie. Can't wait to see a buck go down in front of Simon's. That'll stir the cappuccino!
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on Sep 9, 10 12:06 PM
By fdny7318 (60), Water Mill on Sep 8, 10 7:46 PM
Nice photos, but without identifying captions, they are useless.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Sep 9, 10 7:27 PM
Mr. Wheeler, the editor asked me to pass these captions along that were left off of the picture of the deer. Picture 1: Deer Picture 2: Deer. Thank you for pointing that out.
By Sparkibew (28), southampton on Sep 10, 10 4:05 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By localwoods, Hampton Bays on Oct 5, 10 11:51 AM