Long Island officials sounding alarm over deer overpopulation problem

The town of Southold is taking steps to address an increase in the number of deer that has caused an equally large tick problem.

"It’s the largest public health crisis we have in Southold with no close second," said Supervisor Scott Russell with Southold Town.

Officials hope if approved by state lawmakers - a deer management pilot program with New York State DEC oversight would allow hunters in the town more leniency to control the population.

"It’s really a growing problem with the tick-borne illnesses and destruction of crops and woodlands," said assemblywoman Jodi Giglio.

The proposed legislation would also make it legal for deer to be shot from vehicles and for 12 and 13-year-olds to hunt with the supervision of a licensed adult.

"That is something we see in other parts of the state and is something that should be considered," said assemblyman Fred Thiele.

But animal activists fired back - suggesting birth control as a more humane way to reduce the deer population.

"People need to learn to coexist with wildlife," said John Di Leonardo, president of Humane Long Island. "Killing them is cruel and ineffective."

Members of the town’s deer management task force say venison feeds families relying on food pantries and other methods of control aren’t effective.

"It’s impossible to catch all of the does and inject them with the immunocontraceptive vaccine," said John Rasweiler with Southold’s Deer Management Task Force.

According to officials, it’s estimated Southold is home to six to ten times more deer than the local ecosystem can sustain., An over abundance of deer also poses more danger to drivers.

For their part, the DEC can’t comment on pending legislation. As for advocates, they’re hoping to get it approved in the assembly and the Senate at the beginning of next session in January which is also the start of peak shotgun hunting season.