The incidence of tick-borne disease has risen dramatically in recent years on the East End. The cause is more ticks in the area. And that’s because there is now a lack of predators here.
Years ago, the East End was full of red foxes, weasels, raccoons, coyotes and bobcats. These all feasted on mice. They did not feast on ticks directly. But mice are carriers of the ticks in Suffolk County. Keep in mind that ticks don’t travel far on their own. Mice take them to where they never have been before. It’s nature’s way.
Now Hampton Village, developed as a year-around playground for the wealthy, is taking steps to bring back red foxes, weasels, raccoons, coyotes and bobcats. Not to worry, though. These will not be live predators.
“We are very aware,” Mayor Ben Brody said last week, “it would be counter-productive to bring back these predators alive. We could do it, of course. But then it would be just one bad thing replacing another bad thing. We are bringing them in dead and stuffed.”
Last week, the Hamptons Council voted 3 to 2 to buy 1,500 stuffed predators from an upstate taxidermy company.
“Serious problems require serious solutions,” the Mayor continued. “We have 8 wooden windmills in the Hamptons. This is the greatest collection of eighteenth century windmills in the country. Now, in addition, we will have a huge group of stuffed predators in open fields atop four-foot wooden posts—scarecrows for mice, if you will. By August more than a hundred should be in place. By November, 1,500. You will drive out here and see predators standing in the air—atop their posts—in mid-pounce. Do not be alarmed. We have made arrangements with Adirondack Moonglow Taxidermy, a company run by my brother, in New Utrecht. We have ordered the posts. Mice will see their predators, won’t realize they are stuffed, and they will run away.”
These “scarecrows” will be on both public and private property. The ones on public property will be in parks, on sidewalks downtown, in the dunes at the beach and on the shoulders of roads. Do not be alarmed. We are on the move. As for private property owners, the stuffed predators will be provided at no cost, but the property owner must agree to conditions.
Property owners must live adjacent to woodlands.
“The mice will see the predator, get frightened and run off to a safer place like the woods,” the Mayor said. “Otherwise, they will just run off to an adjacent property. This accomplishes nothing.”
And property owners must be committed to maintaining the predators in mid-pounce. If one is stolen, destroyed, or vandalized—“by mice that have banded together” as the Mayor put it—then the property owner must pay the $400 taxidermy fee to have a new stuffed predator placed where the old one was. The commitment will be for 10 years, which is the expected time for the full eradication of mice and their hanger-on ticks.
“Property owners must commit to not selling their homes for that period of time,” the Mayor said. “Of course, nobody is forcing anyone to apply. But if you don’t, yours will be the place where the frightened mice run to.”
Environmentalists have expressed concern. At a demonstration in Southampton last week, people carried signs reading “Don’t Mess with Mother Nature.” Another group, at a meeting in Bridgehampton, pointed out that “an outright predator slaughter, whether in the Adirondacks or the Hamptons, is still “an outright slaughter.” Predators have a right to live, too.
Mayor Brody, when asked about these objections, said the overriding goal is human health. “Doing nothing is not the answer,” he said.
The speed with which all this will happen cannot be exactly determined. Hunters from Adirondack Moonglow Taxidermy are currently out rounding up as many predators they can find every day, darting them, carrying them back to the factory and a “humane” death, and are then having them stuffed by taxidermists and sent here to a Hampton Village warehouse.
“Nobody knows how many raccoons, red foxes, cougars, mountain lions or beavers are up there,” the Mayor said. “So if they start to run out, we’ll have to stop this project for a time until the predators can copulate and reproduce. And of course, we will not break up families.”
I’ll drink to that.