Bridgehampton resident Wendy Chamberlin, of the Wildlife Preservation Coalition, vowed on Feb. 12 at a town board meeting to pursue legal action after the Southold Town board voted unanimously to designate $25,000 toward the deer cull.
Chamberlin confirmed on Friday that the papers had been filed and the litigation had commenced, as well as the temporary restraining order.
Chamberlin was proactive in protesting the deer cull in East Hampton; the East Hampton cull was called off for this year after anoutpouring of opposition and looming litigation.
On Friday evening, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell explained the town's next steps.
"We expect our counsel to be in court on Wednesday to defend the board's actions here," Russell said.
He reminded that the cull is actually being sponsored by the Long Island Farm Bureau; the agency is contracting with the United States Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services division for the service.
"The legal action here is simply an effort to stop Southold Town from contributing resources to the effort," he said.
Russell said at the last meeting, the board accepted state environmental quality review act findings, then voted to allocate $25,000 to help offset the expenses incurred by the LIFB.
"Whether or not the injunction sought is successful, I fully expect the cull to move forward," Russell said.
The cull is slated for late February, and could take place in the next few days or week, according to past reports; the actual dates and sites of the sharpshooter program will not be revealed to the public, to prevent protests, according to statements made at the last town board meeting.
Earlier this month, the Southold town board voted unanimously to support the project. Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, asked each of the five East End towns to contribute toward the program; the LIFB has a $250,000 grant. Southold Town's contribution is $25,000. No other East End towns opted into the plan.
"Southold Town is 100 percent in support of this program," Russell has said.Despite a steady stream of protest by members of the hunting community who came forward to plea with the board to let them address the deer issue, for free, Russell said while the town would rather use local hunters and pointed to the program already in place, state legislation is currently so restrictive that local hunters are facing a roadblock. Russell said he would stand in solidarity with hunters to wage the battle for legislative reform.
Cutchogue resident Barbara McGowan stood up to passionately plea for the deer. Despite the fact that she is an NRA member and has no problem with guns, she said, "What they are going to do is cold-blooded murder." She quoted Albert Schweitzer, "Until we extend our compassion to all living things, humanity will find no peace." She added, "I pray for that peace here in Southold."
"My wife and I are vehemently opposed to this deer kill — it's kill, not cull," said Ben Schwab of Mattituck. "We resent our tax money going toward this."
Meanwhile, North Fork Environmental Council vice-president Dan Durett of Southold said from a film perspective, "Bambi has become the new 'Jaws.'"
Members of the group Hunters for Deer, LLC, founded by Mike Tessitore, came out in force to protest the plan and grill the board for answers.
The public outcry against the cull came after three earlier public forums and meetings, during which time the outpouring of support was overwhelmingly in favor of the cull, as residents painted pictures of lives ravaged by tick born diseases and car accidents caused by deer, and experts detailed the damage to the environment caused by the swelling deer population.