This opinion piece is written by River Vale native Sydney Pleasic, 19, a sophomore at the University of Vermont.
As part of a school assignment, Pleasic has chosen to examine the abundance of deer and alleged lack of an action plan to decrease the rising number.
The views in this article do not reflect those of Daily Voice.
March marked the first time in a month that the Hilltop Reservation fell silent, bullets ceased firing and protesters stopped bellowing. This past February, in Essex, a neighboring county, the annual deer hunt came to an end for its 11th year, but towns all across New Jersey are still debating whether lethal or non-lethal options are the best solution for the increasing deer management problem.
Bergen County makes up 70 municipalities in Northern New Jersey, many of which have been debating new deer management plans for years. If these towns in Bergen County are looking to see a change, they need to implement lethal options to deal with the overabundance of deer and safety concerns that come along with it. The abundance of deer are attracting larger predators, Lyme disease, and road safety concerns.
The increase in larger predators include a “substantial increase in the number of coyotes that appear to have lost their fear of humans and have engaged in aggressive behavior which is a threat to residents, their children and pets.”1 This increase of coyotes has been credited to the fact that “coyotes are the natural predators of deer and may have been drawn to the area due to the deer.”2 Upper Saddle River, Police Chief Timothy McWilliams said “Phone calls about big groups of the animals have the department worried about a “pack mentality.”3
Many citizens in northern New Jersey call for a new deer management plan due to the unsafety of driving. Drivers are constantly threatened by deer as they are known to graze at the edges of fragmented land and forest which are very prevalent in New Jersey along highways and streets. State Farm released nationwide estimates which put a NJ drivers chance of hitting a deer at about 1 in 2294. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection stated there is an estimated 50,000 car crashes involving deer every year5. Many non-lethal advocates feel that they would rather keep our current management plan implemented and take time coming up with an alternative non-lethal option instead of implementing a hunt. If we don’t make a change now, we are gambling our citizens lives. Councilman Paul Schulstad, from a borough in Bergen County said, “We have a deer plan today, it’s lethal, it’s using cars and we are accepting the risks our residents that they’re going to get killed in a car accident, and the risks from packs of coyotes.”3
Lyme Disease poses a major health concern to many citizens. If this inflammatory disease is left untreated it can spread to the heart and nervous system and may result in death. Deer are the primary food source for adult female ticks6. Like other areas of the state, officials in Saddle River say the growing deer problem poses health risks to humans7. Therefore, there is evidence that suggests a direct correlation between reducing deer populations and a decrease in tick densities and infection rates.6
Critics opposed to the lethal approach believe that any lethal plan is animal cruelty. Instead of a hunt or issuing more hunting licenses, these groups opt for approaches such as “purchase signs which flash lights to warn deer of oncoming traffic, exposing deer to insecticide to ward off ticks and neutering males and spaying females”. Groups recognize that this approach won’t have immediate results, unlike the hunt as Councilman Ron Yates, liaison to the Environmental Commission, said, “the non-lethal plan counts on attrition — through old age, illness, deer-car collisions or predation by coyotes — to see a drop-in numbers and would not be immediate” Advocates for non-lethal options feel they are still better for the safety of the people even though results might take longer.
Due to the immediate threats that Lyme disease, coyote packs, and safety concerns of deer on the road pose, I agree with the towns state officials and boroughs environmental commissioners who feel non-lethal options cannot produce the immediate results needed and instead, optioning for controlled hunts. Carol Stanko a supervising wildlife biologist who heads the NJ department of Environmental Protection’s deer program said, “The deer are everywhere- but they are particularly prevalent in areas that don’t allow hunting.”4 I believe lethal options would be the best course to take in controlling the overabundance of deer in Bergen County which would involve controlled hunts run by the County. County members should call their town officials and advocate as to why the town would benefit from a hunt. These hunts are highly controlled by professionals and extremely safe to community members. The hunts would immediately decrease the population thus, protecting the safety of the residents.
- Nolan, Sarah. "Saddle River Council tables deer hunt resolution.” NorthJersey.com, 16 Oct. 2017, www.northjersey.com/story/news/bergen/saddle-river/2017/10/16/saddle-river-council-consider-deer-hunt-resolution-tonight/769379001/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2018.
- Saddle River News. 26 Sept. 2017, www.saddlerivernews.com/saddle-river-police-warns-residents-about-coyotes/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2018.
- Nolan, Sarah. "Controlled deer hunt recommended in Saddle River." Northjersey.com, 18 Sept. 2017, www.northjersey.com/story/news/bergen/saddle-river/2017/09/18/controlled-deer-hunt-recommended-saddle-river/670518001/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2018.
- Augenstein, Seth. "Why the fall is when most of N.J.'s deer get hit by cars, 26k struck yearly." Nj.com, 6 Oct. 2016, www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2014/10/deer_in_nj_hit_by_cars_50k_times_annually__drivers_cautioned_during_this_mating_season.html. Accessed 5 Apr. 2018.
- Jennings, Rob. "Fatal crash a reminder of fall deer driving hazard: What you need to know." Nj.com, 19 Jan. 2018, www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2017/11/deer_pose_a_hazard_to_drivers_in_new_jersey.html. Accessed 5 Apr. 2018.
- "Deer Overabundance." Department of Environmental Conservation, www.dec.ny.gov/animals/104911.html. Accessed 5 Apr. 2018.
- Attrino, Anthony. "Saddle River mayor opposes lethal ways of controlling deer population." Nj.com, 2 Mar. 2017, www.nj.com/bergen/index.ssf/2017/03/saddle_river_moves_on_plan_to_reduce_deer_populati.html. Accessed 5 Apr. 2018.
- Nolan, Sarah. "Saddle River vet: Neutering deer will reduce population." Northjersey.com, 18 Apr. 2017, www.northjersey.com/story/news/bergen/saddle-river/2017/04/18/saddle-river-vet-neutering-deer-reduce-population/100585258/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2018
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