The Town of Southampton created the Deer Protection and Management Advisory Committee as a key component to finding a unified approach to sustaining deer populations while balancing human needs.
Kyle Collins, Town Planning and Development Administrator, Town of Southampton
Marty Shea, Chief Environmental Analyst, Town of Southampton
Deer Management Program
Public inquiries about white-tailed deer have prompted the development of the Town of Southampton Deer Protection Plan (3 MB pdf) in order to respond to questions and concerns regarding the apparent increase in deer populations throughout the East End. While there are some who argue that deer are a nuisance that need to be promptly controlled, others see white-tails as a precious natural resource representing the elegance, intrigue, and wild places of Southampton Town.
Recognizing these often divergent interests, the Town seeks to find a unified approach to sustaining deer populations while balancing human needs. Creating a Deer Protection and Management Plan presents a host of challenges, from educating the public on deer conservation, to options available to landowners seeking to limit the damage that deer can have on landscaping and agricultural lands. Public safety issues related to the frequency of deer-vehicle collisions likewise need to be addressed.
Deer Protection and Management Plan Goals
Notwithstanding deer nuisance issues, the Town is keenly aware that maintaining deer population is beneficial to sustaining area ecology and biodiversity, as well as for tourism, wildlife watching, photography, artist inspiration, nature study, hiking, hunting, and other recreational pursuits. Moreover, that such activities contribute significant money to local businesses and the economy, and that the presence of deer, therefore, enhance Southampton’s quality of life. Thus, continued protection of white-tailed deer as a valuable natural resource needs to be the Town’s overall deer protection and management goal.
Achieving all goals, including landowner satisfaction, deer hunter satisfaction, deer protectionist and/or advocate satisfaction, and reduced deer nuisance impacts and vehicle collisions simultaneously can be difficult but not impracticable. The Town has considered the views of these various involved groups in developing its program goals, which include:
The need to provide landowners and the public with available options to reduce the impact of deer vehicle collisions and damage to landscaping and agricultural crops;
The desire to utilize local hunters rather than hired sharpshooters or other outside parties, to provide management guidance to landowners, as well as to harvest nuisance animals;
The exploration of opportunities for using other non-lethal methods, such as immunocontraceptives in areas of high residential density experiencing deer damage;
The creation of a Deer Protection and Management Advisory Committee; and
An increased effort to educate the public about program goals.
The Town of Southampton participates in the DEC’s Deer Management Assistance Program, giving out 26 bonus DMP permits in 2014. In addition, the Town issued 108 Landowner’s Endorsement permits in 2014. The Landowner Endorsement permits allow hunters to access other people’s property through the property owner’s written consent. In total, the DEC reports 666 deer harvested in the Town of Southampton in 2014.
Hunting licenses and permits are available at the Town Clerk’s office, open Monday to Friday, 8:15 am to 4:15 pm.
The Town recognizes that deer damage to agriculture, especially tree nurseries and cropland remains a significant issue on the East End. This is particularly true along farm woodland edges and on smaller farm plots.
However, the extent of deer damage is not necessarily indicative of excessive deer numbers, as impacts can often be attributed to the same handful of deer, which have become habituated to feeding on select nursery plants and crops.
Deer proof fencing can prevent heavy damage to nurseries and croplands, even though the costs of installation, maintenance and upkeep are generally high. Fences need to be at least 8 feet in height in order to deter deer damage.
As such, in July, 2015 Councilmember Christine Scalera sponsored Town Board Resolution 2015-713, which provides for an increase of the height of deer fencing around public and community gardens from 6 feet to 8 feet.
In some areas, deer population can only be managed using methods other than hunting. As such, consideration has been given to surgical sterilization of deer in localized areas. However, use of this technique is not only extremely expensive, with the cost estimated at about $1,000 per deer, but generally impractical, as a high percentage of deer would need to be captured and sterilized in order to reduce population numbers.
Immunocontraception is another way of managing the deer population. This method involves using trained dart shooters to “shoot” female deer with a vaccine that disrupts the deer’s reproductive function. Immunocontraception and other types of fertility control are appealing applications in densely populated areas and urban parks where hunting is not viable.
The use of immunocontraceptive vaccines has proved to be a successful means of reducing deer populations, deer vehicle collisions and general public deer complaints on Fire Island. Since 1993, the porcine zone pellucid (PZP) vaccine has been used on Fire Island and in other locations, reducing deer pregnancy rates by 80-90%. A single injection of PZP blocks egg fertilization and thereby pregnancy for about 2 years.