By Andrew Wroblewski
Asharoken resident Laura Press says she has tried just about everything to keep deer away from her home, but to no avail.
“Every day I see deer in my yard. Every day I check myself and my dog for ticks,” Press told Huntington town board members at a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed law that would allow for in-season longbow deer hunting in Asharoken and Eatons Neck that drew 29 speakers.
These deer are the reason why, Press said, she developed Lyme disease in 2013 and was treated again this summer. Wild deer can carry disease-infected ticks.
“We live in the woods. We accept we live in the woods. But we still need to be protected from health hazards by our government,” added Press’ husband, Jonathan, at the public hearing. “Something needs to be done.”
Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone proposed the resolution, which can come up for a vote as early as the Sept. 16 town board meeting, as one of several potential solutions to the problem over deer over-population.
If approved, licensed hunters using longbows would be permitted to hunt deer on private properties in Asharoken and Eatons Neck during Suffolk County’s deer hunting season. Both a valid hunting license from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and a bow hunting license would be required.
But some speakers Tuesday claimed bow hunting may actually cause more headaches for the town. Longbow hunters can wound, not kill, deer and – along with causing the animal to suffer – lead them to run into traffic.
Councilman Gene Cook brought up this issue during the hearing.
“Usually they get hit and they run,” he said. “We’re a little concerned that, in an urban area, we may be jumping too far head” by approving the change.
Alternatives, such as sterilizing deer or using contraception to prevent further reproduction, were also suggested. But others, such as Michael Tessitore, president of the nonprofit Hunters For Deer and an avid hunter, said archery hunting remains the most effective way to deal with overpopulation of deer in residential areas.
“One or two deer in the yard, we wouldn’t be having this meeting,” he said. “When people are seeing 17 in their yard, that’s when we have an issue.”
Huntington’s proposal comes as Suffolk’s deer hunting season approaches. From Oct. 31-Jan. 31, 2016, regular deer can be hunted with bows.
But Huntington faces a large issue, one that may take more than hunters to solve. Petrone said he was told by the state DEC that deer overpopulation is a “20-year problem” facing the town.
The resolution would just be one step in solving it.
“We have to band together to do something because it is getting out of hand,” Petrone said. “Are we happy with this alternative, with bows and deer running that are shot? No.” But the board needs to start somewhere, he said.
“My feeling is, this year, this is what’s before us as an initial [plan]. I think what we have to do is, if we pass this, we just can’t say: ‘OK we took care of it.’ We’ve got to use the time now to really get into this.”
Petrone suggested the board work with other local municipalities and state officials to solve a problem “that’s bigger than Huntington.”