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Blood and Guts in the Hamptons

Roadkill is more prevalent than ever in the Hamptons, and no one's sure if the problem is exacerbated by acorn shortages or nasty drivers.

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The socialite Helen Lee Schifter bought a new sports car at the beginning of the summer, doing her part, she says, to “stimulate the economy.” And she’s happy with the purchase, save for the fact that she’s listened to an awful lot of ewwws from her daughter as they pass the roadkill littering Sagaponack, N.Y.

Former New York Times Style writer Alex Kuczynski, meanwhile, has been encountering remnants of the recently departed while riding around in nearby Southampton. “I’ve seen two dead squirrels on South Main Street this summer, and I’ve never seen two dead squirrels on South Main Street before.”

Kuczynski also has been beeping at the ones who seem to be running right in front of her car. “I’ve never had to beep at squirrels before. And I’ve definitely done that four or five times this summer. It’s only July.”

Every driver at some point encounters roadkill. If it isn’t a possum, it’s a skunk, and if it isn’t a skunk, it’s a rabbit — or worse, a deer, which have been a problem here for years.

Still, in the Hamptons this summer, behavioral changes among other mammals and stagnating resources during the recession are creating a new kind of sightseeing.

“This has been a very big year for roadkill,” says Larry Penny, who heads the town of East Hampton’s natural resources department. He estimates that unintentional exterminations of the local wildlife are up 25 to 30 percent this year, but that clean-up crews haven’t beefed up accordingly.

Yes, it’s true — even folks in the idyllic Hamptons must learn to make do with less. Or, in this case, more.

“It’s not like Mexico where that same dead cow will be there for two or three weeks before someone removes the carcass,” Penny says, “but I think it’s taking a little longer to get things off the road.”

But what’s causing the increasing bloodshed in the first place?

First, an acorn shortage that has swept the Eastern End of Long Island. That means squirrels and other critters are crossing to road as they forage farther to get their food.

Second, a mange problem has depleted the fox population, according to Virginia Frati of the Wildlife Rescue Center in the Hamptons. “It’s a microscopic mite that burrows under the skin, becomes badly infected and causes them to die of dehydration and emaciation,” she says.

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