THEY CALL IT A ‘CULL.’ Any other person would term it “slaughter.” And soon slaughter will come to the Town of East Hampton, on the East End of Long Island. The town of second residences, of the Seinfelds and Spielbergs and Baldwins. And the town of many deer. Too many of our antlered and un-antlered friends, according to some, including the local government. They damage precious landscaping, and ravage un-fenced crops, and carry dreaded ticks harboring Lyme disease. And so federal sharpshooters will arrive next month and the one after that, to eliminate 2,000-3,000 deer of a herd estimated at between 25,000 to 30,000.
It is a problem, true. In East Marion on the North Fork downwind of the Blue Inn, lies an adult female deer. Hit by a car, but with no noticeable injury, frozen in a quasi-fetal position. Each time I have passed its glistening, glazed over corpse, I have at first glance thought it a discarded lawn ornament, only to see the reflection of the headlights in its still open eyes and realize, “Oh my God, it’s real.” Deer are large creatures, some approaching the size of a human, many others much bigger. These are not flattened birds or opossum guts. When the deer lie sprawled on the side of the road, it’s not hard to imagine limp, dead people in their places.
The irony is the people who drive the cars that hit them are likely on their way to the Greek restaurant across the way for some tasty gyros, or to the IGA in Greenport to pick up some burgers or Italian sausages. All of that money, wasted. All of that time, wasted. Venison is a lean, savory protein source and, like it or not, it is right there, splayed out on the side of the road. But from what I understand the collected dead deer are actually transferred to dumping grounds, beyond the sight of some of the major local highways. The trucks back in and dump the bodies on top of the other fermenting bodies. And I do wonder — what will they do with all of those 3,000 deer once the sharpshooters take them down? The fact that there are federal sharpshooters willing to slaughter these animals — “cull” as they put it — shows that people will do anything for money. But if they are going to kill all those animals, at least the good people of the Town of East Hampton could get some warmth and nutrition out of it.
The only thing that I am grateful for in all of this, is that I do not live in the Town of East Hampton. I’m over here across the Peconic Bay in Southold Town, and Southold Town doesn’t feel like much of a town anyway. The North Fork is isolated, insulated, clubby. People in Southold proper refer to the Village of Orient — a 15 minute drive away — as “all the way out there.” And this is another one of the instances where I am glad I live “all the way out there.”