Protesters in Patchogue call for non-lethal deer control on Fire Island


John DiLeonardo, president of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, leads protestors in Patchogue Friday. (Michael White)

Protesters took to the National Parks Service property in Patchogue Village Friday morning to express displeasure with a plan the federal government released last month allowing for lethal means to control deer populations on Fire Island.

Those means — as described in the nearly 500-page document — would involve trapping, tranquilizing and euthanizing deer “as humanely as possible, in accordance with current veterinary recommendations such as those published by the American Veterinary Medical Association.”

Aside from their moral objections with killing the animals, protesters on Friday questioned what the big deal was with the deer on Fire Island anyway. They insisted sterilization has proven effective on the barrier island, as have methods of rolling chemicals onto the deer at feeding stations to rid them of deer ticks.

The protestors, led Friday by John DiLeonardo of Malverne, president of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, are hoping to pressure federal officials to pursue only nonlethal methods, even though the Final White-Tailed Deer Management Plan allows for both.

“Immunization has worked for decades on Fire Island,” DiLeonardo shouted through the crowd.

Some of the protesters, a mix of Fire Island residents and non-residents, said Hurricane Sandy already drowned hundreds of deer in October 2012, which reduced populations not long after extensive studies began for the management plan in the summer of 2011.

Amanda Fabian, a year-round resident of Fair Harbor on Fire Island, said the “conducive environment for animals” is one of the things that attracted her to the barrier beach.

“I have four dogs and two cats and I love the deer and they all get along beautifully,” Fabian said. “The deer are company and it’s beautiful, especially when it snows. And it’s not as if there’s that many deer.”

“In my town of Seaview there’s been no problems, as far as I can tell,” said Albert Sherman, who lives in New York City and Fire Island. “If there’s an issue with what they’re calling negative human-to-deer interaction, eating the gardens or getting into the garbage, then build better fences and tighten up your garbage cans.”

“This isn’t like Montauk where they’re interacting with cars and stuff; there are no cars,” he added.

In a statement issued in January, the Parks Service cited negative impacts on the Fire Island National Seashore’s “globally rare maritime forest and historic plantings at the William Floyd State,” as a chief purpose for the plan.

“We believe this long-awaited plan provides us the direction to protect the critical resources identified in the seashore’s enabling legislation,” said Parks Service superintendent Chris Soller.

On Friday in Patchogue, Kelly Fellner, Fire Island National Seashore’s assistant superintendent, said the plan was compiled over the course of several years using extensive scientific research, as well as public input.

Everything together is aimed at “creating a balanced ecosystem,” she said.

Top: John DiLeonardo of Malverne, president of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, leads protestors on National Parks Service property in Patchogue Friday morming. (Michael White)