Latest Suffolk deer culling hits legal snag

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Federal authorities say an overabundance of white-tailed deer is endangering the forest of a history Suffolk County property, but their plan for a deer cull is being blocked.

People living or working near the William Floyd Estate in Mastic Beach might soon hear the sound of gunshots. Federal employees with the National Park Service and other agencies are supposed to start thinning the deer population, killing more than 100 deer that live on the property. Experts say the deer are devastating the landscape and endangering other wildlife.

"Without intervention, this level of deer threaten[s] the forests' ability to sustain itself over the long term," says Elizabeth Rogers, of the National Park Service.

The plan isn't sitting well with Robert Oliver, who lives right next door.

"I came from the Bronx. I grew up in an apartment building as a kid," Oliver says. "I don't want to kill animals. That's why I'm in the country."

The operation is part of a larger plan to decrease the number of deer on Fire Island, but that isn't scheduled to start until next year. There is also the possibility of a public recreational hunt within the Fire Island wilderness area, but that is only an option as of right now.

Jim Hunter, of the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, says he opposes any plan that requires people to kill animals.

"They have a right to survive the same as we have a right to survive," Hunter says. "And I don't think humans should make that decision."

The hunt was scheduled to begin Wednesday, but three out-of-state animal rights groups filed lawsuits. On Tuesday, a federal judge granted one of the groups a temporary restraining order. A hearing is now scheduled for Thursday.

The William Floyd Estate is currently closed for the winter.

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