Editorial: Time to decide on the deer

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 7:51pm

The issue of Lyme disease and the presence of the deer that carries the tick that causes it, as anyone with any institutional memory can attest, goes back decades. Now, at long last, it appears that the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has sanctioned a plan to seriously reduce the size of the deer herd. It will apparently take a few years, but the goal is to reduce the herd by 80 to 90 percent.

It’s a start, but there are still a few unknowns, a couple of which will require serious debate: who will do the non-recreational cull and how much will it cost. First Warden Kim Gaffett said the Town Council will schedule a public hearing sometime between Nov. 25 and Dec. 7. This meeting should also include as many members of the public as possible, because this impacts everyone who lives on the island, property owners or not.

We applaud the efforts of the Deer Task Force, which finally made substantive headway on this issue, and we also encourage its efforts in raising as much in private funding as they can in order to pay for the cull. Taxpayers in New Shoreham should be an active partner in the discussion, but they should not have to foot the entire bill. While we support the efforts of the DEM to reduce the deer herd, it is more than a little ironic that the DEM would ask the town to pay for the removal of the very deer that they claim is its own property.

This is going to foster a vigorous debate. There is not unanimity on the need to reduce the number of deer or on the claim that they are the only carrier of the tick. Nevertheless, over the last several years, there has been a growing consensus that something must be done about the deer.

We will publish the date of the meeting as soon as it’s set. We hope that we see homeowners, residents, hunters, non-hunters, and those who have had Lyme and those who have not, at that very important discussion. Everyone has a stake in this.

A candid and spirited discussion will eventually decide how the deer herd is culled. Nevertheless, we applaud the DEM plan, as well as the efforts of those who worked toward it with the goal of doing something about the deer and Lyme disease.