Bellport Village might have a deer problem.
Or, it might not. It likely depends on who you ask.
Either way, the village is looking into how other municipalities are handling growing deer populations, so that Bellport officials can be prepared if action is needed.
“There are over 30 deer just at the country club alone,” said Trustee David McGrath during a discussion of the matter Monday night in Village Hall. “I’ve never seen it like this before.”
He suggested hiring a hunter to thin out the herd.
“You could donate the meat,” McGrath said.
Trustees Bob Rosenberg and Michael Ferrigno also named spots toward the village’s southern end, where they say a growing number of white-tailed deer are being spotted regularly.
“Now it’s the standard country problem on South Howells where they dart out in front of you,” Rosenberg said. “There’s going to be a bad accident one of these days.”
He then asked whether the village has the legal power to authorize a cull.
“My understanding is, even if it’s outside of normal hunting season, if it gets to the point where it’s creating a legitimate threat to the health and safety, we’re obligated to do something,” village attorney David Moran responded. “But we haven’t had an accident yet.”
“So we have to wait for an accident?” Rosenberg asked.
“There must be some precedent for municipalities to do it,” Moran said, “because municipalities are doing it, so there must be a legal standard for it. I’ll take peek at it.”
Mayor Ray Fell said he thinks the village is still a few years from a serious problem.
“The deer population isn’t going away … eventually we’l have to do something,” Fell said, though Rosenberg insisted many in Bellport would argue there is a serious problem now.
Trustee Leslie O’Connor suggested she would be strongly against any attempts by the village to thin the herd through lethal means.
“If there’s a continuous food supply, no matter what you do, the population will come back to the level the land can sustain,” she said. “There’s never more deer than the land can sustain because it’s a naturally, self-regulating cycle.
“If we plant things they like to eat, they will come and eat them and thrive. And if we stop doing that, the herd will thin itself.”
O’Connor said she’s not sure if sterilization methods work, either.
She added that the outcry against the village taking lethal action against the deer would be tremendous.
“And I won’t be silent either,” she said.
Photo: A white-tailed deer on Shelter Island. (Credit: Shelter Island Reporter/Jim Colligan)