Letters to the Editor: Deer 09.21.17

Our readers' comments

Out-of-Balance Habitat


September 15, 2017

Dear Editor,

I was appalled by the letter to last week’s Star by Dell Cullum accusing Marguerite Wolffsohn of “barbaric, compassionless, insulting rhetoric and a driving killing mentality” in relation to her remarks and position on deer management. 

Ms. Wolffsohn is a strong environmental proponent, a well-credentialed expert, a known animal-lover, and one of the loveliest people you could ever meet. Whatever the differences in opinion Mr. Cullum might have with Ms. Wolffsohn, attacking her, one of the best public servants we have in this town, is, if not libelous, close to it. 

Our out-of-balance habitat is the real cause of the problem, and we need to come together as a community, with both compassion and science, in finding a solution. Name-calling and personal attacks solve nothing. I know that Mr. Cullum has served the community in many positive ways, but it is his vitriolic diatribe that is “spawning hysteria and hate.”


Intemperate Rant


Septrmber 17, 2017

Dear David,

Dell Cullum’s intemperate rant last week about East Hampton Town Planning Director Marguerite Wolffsohn’s views on deer is so far off the mark it is ludicrous. Ms. Wolffsohn is a conscientious and compassionate advocate for the town’s resources — fauna, flora, and human. 

Anyone who walks in the woods knows that deer browsing have played havoc with the native understory of our forests, leaving opportunistic or invasive species like bull briar (Smilax), barberry, and bittersweet. The rare and beautiful flowers like pink lady slipper are largely gone. When the inevitable fire, hurricane, or plague of gypsy moths decimates the mature canopy there will be few recruits of small trees to replace them. The deer ate them. 

Reasonable people can diverge on management solutions, but as with climate change we cannot solve a problem if we won’t recognize there is one. Vilifying people you disagree with may get you elected president, but it doesn’t bring people together as Mr. Cullum says he wants. His ad hominem attack on Ms. Wolffsohn puts him beyond the pale as a credible advocate.


Thank You, Marguerite

East Hampton

September 15, 2017

Dear David,

I have known Marguerite Wolffsohn on a personal and a professional basis for over 30 years and can vouch for her compassion for people and all the animals and plants on the planet. 

Dramatic changes have altered East Hampton since it was settled in 1648, but as Ms. Wolffsohn observed in the 2005 Town of East Hampton Comprehensive Plan, “many of the natural and cultural features, no longer evident in other places on Long Island, New York State, and the Country, have been protected in East Hampton.” Thank you, Marguerite, for your continued efforts to protect East Hampton’s environment.


Former East Hampton Town Planning Director

Despicable Words


September 14, 2017

Dear Editor;

 I was amazed at the letter you published last week from Mr. Dell Cullum. Though I can’t recall ever meeting the man, I feel I’ve gotten an insight into his character, and find it offensive, to put it mildly. It seems he has strong feelings concerning deer management and even stronger feelings about those who don’t rant with him. 

In his letter he made backhanded attacks on the town board, all the while saying they’re not such bad people if they keep their mouths shut about their feelings on hunting and deer. He attacked hunters in the most demeaning, stereotypical manner, yet said hunters are okay if they don’t discuss it. He lambasted Zach Cohen, chairman of the nature preserve committee, and Andy Gaites of the Land Preservation Department for what I can only imagine is his perceived collusion to exterminate wildlife from the face of East Hampton. But what was most disturbing was the manner and words he used to attack Marguerite Wolffsohn — vile and disgusting words that opened a window into a confused and dangerous mind. 

Ms. Wolffsohn has been employed by East Hampton in the Planning Department for the past 30 years, and is its longtime director. She is one of the most sincere and hard-working and honest people in defense of East Hampton, its code, and environment I’ve ever met. She’s weathered politics and town boards, lawyers and code changes, dishonesty and bad press, without praise and little thanks, but she hasn’t wavered in her job and I expect she won’t. But I’ve not seen such bile and despicable words used in a public forum to describe anyone, except with hate.

I don’t use that word lightly. Similar words were used just recently in Charlottesville. Unstable people kill their neighbors and bystanders every day. Passions and delusions are lethal. Marguerite should fear for her and her family’s safety.

I’ve noted that Mr. Cullum is running for a seat on the town trustees as a Demo­crat. I would hope the party, my party, would disavow what he said in this letter and express its displeasure with him by removing him from the ballot and showing him and his hatefulness the door. He doesn’t represent anything most of us hold dear.


Was It Necessary?


September 15, 2017

To the Editor:

I read with disappointment Dell Cullum’s criticism of East Hampton Town Planning Director Marguerite Wolffsohn, issue of Sept. 14. 

Was it really necessary to be so nasty? Wolffsohn wasn’t an elected official, and I am under the impression not a chief policy-maker. There is no question that we have a deer overpopulation, and reasonable people may disagree over how best to limit populations in a humane way. I have been out here many years, and summer was always the season that deer disappeared. No more. 

The tone of the Cullum letter made it difficult to read. Try to raise your level of engagement above the invectives, Mr. Cullum.


Most Sincere Apology

East Hampton

September 18, 2017

Dear David,

It seems as though I created quite a stir with my letter last week. I haven’t received so much hate mail since I came up with the crazy revelation that our beaches were being trashed with litter, almost seven years ago. 

Oh, how time flies and eyes become opened. Some say I’ve created a divide with last week’s letter — half the folks think I went overboard in my comments, and the other half think I nailed it. Some think I was very insensitive, offensive, and downright insulting. Even members of the town board expressed their displeasure, and one member made reference to my comments doing more harm then good. Some also called the words I used misrepresenting, and not reflecting many other people’s opinions. 

I’d like everyone to please read the last four sentences of what I just wrote. Now let me tell you, they’re pretty much spot-on, but that was my absolute intention, and the town board members couldn’t have said it better. See what I did here? The results couldn’t have been more perfect. 

If you haven’t got it yet, let me explain. You see, all those feelings above happen to be the absolute exact same feeling of offensiveness, insult, disrespect, divide, misrepresentation, and insensitivity that I and many many others in our community have felt, feel, and endure when hateful rhetoric about our deer becomes evident through copied local government correspondences (which I have), biased town advisory committees (one, I sit on), committee videos or audio displaying insensitive rhetoric (which I have dozens of), surprise plans of inhumane methods of killing (heard on the most recent video), and the general hate that some folks simply have for our deer. It’s actually more offensive than you could ever form with words in a letter. After all, I’m a member of this community in which our local government serves. Finding out about a “capture and euthanize” plan for the deer on the town’s agenda, in a less than public manner without my knowledge, isn’t serving me at all. It fact it serves against me, in a big way. 

Personally, my connection with all wildlife is spiritual. You can even say it’s the basis of my religion. My church is the shoreline of our beaches, and I attend daily. It’s where I pray and thank the Lord for all the beautiful wildlife, and I also pray for their safety in these difficult times. Many times, the wildlife joins me, and it’s an extremely spiritual moment that I try to capture with my camera to share with everyone. When the wildlife is persecuted for their mere existence, or blamed for human error, or simply even hated for eating or being alive, that just happens to be the worst and most harmful insult to me that my heart could possibly stand. A literal insult to my spiritual beliefs. 

The folks that my letter offended have only been upset with my comments for seven days. Me, and what I believe is the majority of our community, have been enduring this offensive, insulting rhetoric for seven years. Doesn’t feel good, does it? If you’re just understanding this now, you still have no idea how painful it is. Maybe some of our local government leaders and employees now understand better, and hopefully all you folks who aren’t pleased with my method of making a point might see things a little differently as well. If you hate me, that’s fine, but if you understand better how it feels and hurts on the other side of the issue, then I succeeded. Let any anti-Dell responses this week simply reflect how easy it is to hate each other, and how difficult it is to respect each other. This is what I had hoped to expose, and indeed I believe it was.

With that being said, I want everyone to know that I am a lot of things. I hope to think most of them are good; however, I know one thing I will never be, and that’s perfect. I may be outspoken, persistent, and even go to the limit when trying to prove a point (like I just did), but when an apology is necessary, I have no problem accepting humility and making things right. No one has asked me to do what I’m now going to do, but I feel it is necessary to show that I’m going to make the first effort in uniting our respect for each other, and also to express my real feelings about Marguerite Wolffsohn and not just her rhetoric, which really upset me. 

Both the deer lovers and those who think differently deserve each other’s respect when dealing with such a sensitive issue. I don’t think we can come to any solution, to any issue, without first respecting each side. Save the hate for things like racism, bullying, sexual predators, drunk driving, littering, domestic abuse, bad politics, things like that, but don’t hate an innocent deer for not being able to conform to our consistent mistakes, and don’t punish them for it with death. That is just plain insanity.

At this time, I wish to publicly and adamantly extend my most sincere apology to Marguerite, and also to her family, all her co- workers and friends, and anyone who was offended by my strong choice of hateful words in describing an attitude displayed in a recent video, and from my past experiences. I do not hate Marguerite, nor do I think she is bad for this town or the position she holds. I’m sure she’s equally as passionate about our environment and maybe even for our wildlife. We just don’t jibe about the deer at all, but if she is respectful to my feelings about them, I will be equally respectful to her, and her feelings. If not, no one would expect me to sit back with my mouth shut, and I won’t.

That couldn’t be more fair, and a quality this whole town should take as good advice (and that includes you, village). I also extend my apologies for making Ms. Wolffsohn the sole focus of my “shoe on the other foot” example, but the video that I mentioned last week and its context sent me over the edge. I still personally feel it was aggressive and unnecessary rhetoric, and I’m certain I’m not alone. Thoughts of Marguerite mentioning “capture and euthanize” methods in the town’s future agenda needed to be addressed now, before someone actually thinks that’s going to be acceptable without a fight from me and the deer-loving community. It’s quite scary to think plans like this could go unnoticed and then executed without approval from the majority of the community. It’s very unsettling to me, and remains a serious concern since seeing the video. I’ve lost much sleep thinking about it.

I also extend my apology to East Hampton Town’s deer management committee, and its chairman Zachary Cohen, for my comments on their character. It was also intended to show the committee how offended I feel at the very imbalance of such a bias-driven advisory board. I don’t think I need to argue that fact. There is very little respect at that table for the deer, from my perspective. My very first meeting I was snapped at by a D.E.C. representative, Michelle Gibbons, for merely bringing up the suggestion of requesting a proper count of our deer population. “What difference will it make?” she rudely interrupted before I could finish my reason for asking. I was going to finish with, “to show respect to those who feel we need one.” I didn’t finish my comment because I knew right then, there was no interest in what I had to offer the committee. No one else responded, and that offended me as well.

I’m not asking for any return apologies from those whose rhetoric has offended and terribly insulted me, either. I just ask for understanding and respect for the message I’m trying to share with everyone in the community, whether it be about the deer or the trash or the general attitude of people. It’s a message of hope, unity, and respect for each other, no matter what we find ourselves up against in our community. That’s what community strong means, mutual respect and together strong. It immediately manifests itself when we come to the aid of someone in need, as I personally and gratefully witnessed firsthand. I just don’t understand why it can’t exist always, every day, in all of us.

 Before we start killing deer for apparently being a nuisance, the town and village need to fix the things that exasperate the burden on the deer. You know, the things caused by our worst enemy — ourselves. Take these fence walls down, make sure all properties have the required wildlife corridors (extremely important), correct the illegal fencing issues that force the deer to go around and along the roadsides, and most of all, enforce the speeding laws like you’ve never enforced them before. 

After the town and village correct the issues they are responsible for, which undeniably created all the problems to begin with, then assess the problem again. If a problem persists, then first explore nonlethal options before jumping right into lethal methods, and always act humanely over all. That’s an approach sensitive to everyone. 

Next week, I will address the issue I previously mentioned about Andy Gaites’s deer data. I will address it publicly because it affects and needs to be understood by the entire community. I will, however, take a statesman-like approach so as not to offend and to show respect to those who might not agree. I hope in the future we all can do the same.

 Someone I highly respect wrote me and said, “Dell, we pay town bureaucrats a hundred thousand a year to obfuscate and drive around seeking biased answers to solve nonexistent problems, we pay you nothing and get the truth”. 


No Struggle Against Deer

East Hampton

September 16, 2017

Dear David,

What has happened to our humanity? Is there no longer any respect for the cycle of life or an instinctive need to want to preserve what is natural and beautiful? Culling the swans and controlling the deer by inhumane methods is the antithesis of the natural beauty that symbolizes East Hampton Village. 

I am fortunate to live on picture-perfect David’s Lane, on an acre that exactly borders the nature trail. Unsurprisingly, all the species that coexist on the treasured 24 acres of the nature trail occasionally find their way into our yard too — be they mallards, mice, or deer. I invite everyone and anyone who is interested enough to read these letters to come and visit my profuse and passionately gardened garden. 

There is no struggle against the deer here. Is it because we have a conglomeration of picket and stockade fencing topped by a simple string of village-allowed unelectrified wire at eight feet? Our two dogs, who scramble and ramble around the yard for hours each day, have survived the entire summer without one tick. Why? Simply because we prodigiously use the good prevention that Dr. Turetsky recommends. So, is it the wire? Is it the tick medicine? Or is it just good karma? We are at peace here because it’s easy to live in harmony if that is how one chooses to live. 

So, it amazes me that in our idyllic little village there can be such wildly disparate opinions about how to live with the natural world, which is why most of us are here anyway. Last week in these letters to our fine newspaper, Julie Sakellaridis wrote an intelligent and compassionate account of man’s place in nature. Although all of her views do not exactly jibe with mine, her appreciative letter was thought provoking and it is clear she cares, unlike that vulgar, illiterate diatribe from whoever is that tasteless would-be songster that made me sick.

Come on, everyone — care a little more, take the right precautions, drive a little slower, and let’s find the best way to please us all.


Admired, Not ‘Managed’

East Hampton

September 18, 2017

Dear Editor,

I am an artist and mother of two children. I was fortunate to be raised in beautiful East Hampton. This beauty is not only inspiring through its relation to the waters, but to the wildlife we have. To wake up each morning and see a rabbit eating clover heads, a mother and her fawn poised to listen to a distant sound, and to see the many birds grace our gardens is a comforting experience. It is why people leave the city and travel through the horrendous masses to get here. 

My children have delighted in these sights, been awed by the grace and beauty of the deer, and have learned that it is a true gift to be here. Although I have witnessed countless changes to my beloved hometown, one thing that hasn’t changed is the influx of people moving here for its beauty and nature. Surely they are coming here because they appreciate all of nature, as we do, right? Paradoxically, it is these newcomers that despite wanting to be here, want to also change it to suit their purposes. 

We’ve had disputes over land development and preservation, beach access and ownership, and, most disturbing, our precious deer population and its “management.” Our wildlife is what makes East Hampton so beautiful. My children love visiting the nature trail, hoping to catch a glimpse of a baby deer. Our deer population is not a problem, it is part of our environment, and has been before we settled here and built our communities. 

Our deer are getting a bad rap. “Deer ticks” that cause Lyme disease and other difficult-to-treat sicknesses, are more likely spread from ground animals such as mice, raccoons, rabbits, and opossum. When you live here, you must adapt, as you do in any other region. Driving within the speed limit (a law anyway), and being vigilant for deer running across the road are manageable practices. I know I am not alone in this. Our deer are precious to us, and must be respected and admired, not managed.


Birth Control for Wildlife

East Hampton

September 18, 2017

To the Editor:

Their natural predators are no longer here; they eat the plants that we put into the ground; they jump in front of our autos when we are speeding about; these truisms form the base of the argument for the mass slaughter of our white-tailed deer.

But the argument that claims that the deer carry disease is flawed —  deer are no more carriers of tick-borne illnesses than are dogs or children. Dogs and children and deer are all hosts. Ticks are the carriers of the disease-causing spirochete.

We don’t need to bring riflemen to East Hampton to slaughter our white-tailed deer. We can address the control of conception within the herds. The past methods of chemical birth control used on deer relied on hormones (sex steroids) introduced into the females. One urgent problem with hormone use is the contamination of other species — plant and animal, land and marine — by the hormone molecules themselves, which have been conserved throughout evolution and affect virtually all living things. Hormones affect embryonic development. Adding these chemicals to the environment can cause deformation in amphibians and undesirable changes in organisms up and down the food chain. Current scientific thinking considers use of sex steroids in the sterilization of wildlife to be just plain irresponsible.

However, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in partnership with the Humane Society of the United States, has developed an innovative method of birth control for wildlife. It is an immuno-contraceptive called “porcine zona pellucida,” or PZP, which is a protein taken from pig eggs. Injected into female deer with darts, PZP creates antibodies in the female against sperm-recognition protein, thus blocking sperm from entering the egg. Conception is prevented. 

Fire Island has used and benefited from the PZP method for years. Deer are treated yearly by dart; the darted deer are also marked with a dye, in order to identify and track vaccinated animals. Bait stations are employed in order to make the deer accessible for darting. Programs which administer one dose in the spring and another in the fall currently are 90 percent successful at blocking pregnancies in white-tailed deer. In addition, females that were taken off the vaccine, even after four years, successfully gave birth to healthy fawns. The PZP dart-contraceptive method can be delivered easily by trained dart shooters,  cannot pass into the food chain, doesn’t affect normal mating behavior, shows no side effects, allows a return to fertility when no longer administered, and has a low treatment cost of about $79 per deer.

East Hampton must use its considerable resources to thus research and resolve the issue intelligently, without the wholesale slaughter of does and fawns. Our town leaders ought to reach out to the town leaders of Fire Island to explore their deer population control.


Our Beautiful Deer

East Hampton
September 17, 2017

Dear Editor:

I thank God for Jeff Bragman and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez’s victory in the primary election.

I was disgusted by the two postcards Zachary Cohen sent out during the campaign, postcards that shame Bragman. At the same time, I was glad he took such a Trump-like action, because it revealed the kind of person he is. I’ve gotten to known Cohen by attending deer management advisory committee meetings, which he directs.

I have never been interested in politics or being an animal rights activist. I never imagined writing letters like this before. But after Trump’s victories, I, like others, realized the importance of electing intelligent and good persons who sincerely respect all living beings and our environment.

I love the wildlife and nature in East Hampton, especially the beaches and beautiful deer. I am so grateful for these, and I can’t understand why some people do not respect what we have been given.

The worst thing I see are the poor deer, especially fawns killed by speeding cars and by trophy hunters. I personally was afraid of hunters where I used to walk with my baby in the stroller. I called the police and the D.E.C., and I couldn’t believe my ears when the D.E.C. officer said a small bullet wouldn’t kill me. I didn’t know what to do. That’s when I found the compassionate people of East Hampton Group for Wildlife. Since then, I am fighting to save our beautiful deer. I attend the deer management meetings and testify at the town board meetings and the village board meetings.

If you attend the deer management meeting, you will learn right away that they are biased. Except for the wildlife rescuer and amazing photographer, Dell Cullum, and Beverly Schanzer, all the committee wants only to kill deer. This is especially true of the administrators Marguerite Wolffsohn and Andy Gaites.

Why do they want to kill the beautiful, innocent deer when we already have taken their natural habitat through overdevelopment and their lives by fast driving? If only the town would conduct a new scientific deer count! We probably would discover that we don’t need the sterilization program and expanded killing.

The village mayor, Paul F. Rickenbach Jr., always tells us that “I want you to know that I love deer as much as you do.” But he has sent out one-sided deer questionnaires so he can claim that “nobody complained.” The village rehires the White Buffalo firm to sterilize deer or sharpshooters to slaughter them.

When I tried to make these points at a recent village board meeting, I was asked if I live in the village. The assumption was I had no right to care about the deer. I replied that I live in the town, outside the village. But it doesn’t matter, because there is no border for deer and they migrate in and out of the village.


No Understanding


September 16, 2017

To the Editor:

I am shocked by the East Hampton Nature Preserve Committee’s nonchalant, dispassionate attitude toward killing the deer in our community. Living in a rural area as we do in the Hamptons, it is important to realize that deer, swans, turkeys, raccoons, and squirrels, etc., are part of the natural environment; members on that committee should become educated about the beauty and the value of this natural world. 

The video clip I watched revealed that certain members on that committee are completely void of any feelings regarding deer, and they have no understanding or compassion whatsoever for these beautiful animals. The video also revealed offensive and insulting behavior, as some members spoke so easily of killing or “capture and euthanizing” deer with no regard for these beautiful creatures or others in this community who feel quite differently about these animals. 

Deer are an important part of our rich ecosystem. Destroying them by murdering, slaughtering, and potentially maiming or mutilating them simply because some people feel the deer are in the way is not only cruel and inhumane; it is very frightening. Think about that. 


Not a Problem

East Hampton

September 18, 2017

Dear Editor:

One of my fondest memories with my grandchildren is watching a tiny spotted fawn sunning on our lawn in East Hampton Village, waiting for Momma to find dinner. A blessing, not a problem.


Live and Let Live

East Hampton

September 17, 2017

Dear David,

I am so bored and frustrated with the constant hateful rhetoric over what East Hampton Town and Village consider to be a “deer problem.” We have a people problem. People who feel the need to erect eight-foot fences, walls, and cattle guards to keep the deer out. In doing so, these beautiful, innocent creatures are being forced into smaller and smaller spaces to survive. In my strong opinion, that is what is causing the “deer problem.” 

I grew up here. I live in the woods. I see no greater population or undergrowth decimation than years gone by. It is not only our responsibility to protect our wildlife, it is our privilege. The idea of culling or sterilizing another species is so abhorrent and wrong. Now they want to kill swans. What’s next? The wild turkeys because they poop? The squirrels? Chipmunks? Bunnies? Who are you to decide who stays and who must go!? 

When you reduce a population of wildlife, it affects an entire ecosystem, the likes of which you may not know until it’s too late. 

These committees, formed to “fix this issue,” are so entirely offensive. 

I am so grateful for like-minded people here and away, who understand balance. Let’s move beyond how to “fix” this. If you need a beautiful garden, then learn to plant lovely plants and shrubs that deer typically don’t eat. Drive the speed limit! What is it with people driving in the country like they are on fire? not necessary, and it’s illegal. Be extra aware during hours when deer typically travel the most, dawn and dusk. There are signs that tell you a particular road may be heavily traveled by deer. I swear by deer whistles, though some disagree with their effectiveness. Pay attention. Sometimes there is nothing you can do. That’s life. Other places it’s moose, skunks, kangaroos, etc. 

A reminder to all: We depend on each other for survival. Let this season of deadly hurricanes remind us of that. No one life is more important than another. We don’t actually own this land. We share it. Ownership is a man-made concept. Ego-driven. Controlling. 

Bottom line, pay attention to our water resources, garbage, our health care services, noise pollution, our elderly, overcrowding, children’s education and well-being, animal rights, illegal driving like texting and speeding, illegal U-turns on Newtown Lane (don’t get me started!). 

This is the most beautiful place, our home. The wildlife is a part of that beauty. Live and let live. Thank you!