Friday, July 25, 2008

NEW JERSEY NEWS: Another Township Combats Deer Population

Sparta — The township council introduced an ordinance last Tuesday that would allow deer hunting on certain township owned land designated as open space. If the ordinance is passed, hunting would be by permit only and would be strictly controlled.

The public will have the opportunity to ask questions or offer suggestions and opinions on the ordinance at the Aug. 21 council meeting. Township Manager Henry Underhill said he will show maps of Sparta’s open space so the council can discuss specific parcels of land that would be conducive to recreational hunting. Underhill said the township owns a lot of such land and thinks it should be available to citizens.

Representatives from the Sparta Police Department will attend the next meeting to offer their recommendations as to the safety and feasibility of hunting in specific areas. They will also be very involved in setting rules and guidelines for hunters and in providing a mandatory orientation class for those who plan to participate.

The white-tailed deer is the most abundant and best-known large herbivore in the United States and eastern Canada. According to the Division of Fish and Wildlife, New Jersey’s deer are a major part of the state’s landscape in all but highly urban areas.

The population was almost wiped out in the early 1900’s but rebounded throughout the century and is a thriving herd today. Deer management studies show that for every square mile, as many as 30 deer forage on the Garden State’s flora. Adult does can produce triplets and fawns can give birth in their first year. In the absence of predators or hunters, this kind of reproduction can result in a deer herd doubling its size in one year. A lactating doe or a young buck growing antlers can consume as much as ten pounds of food a day. If those ten pounds of food come from neighborhood yards, it creates a lot of headaches for homeowners.

Some enjoy watching Sparta’s plentiful deer grazing gracefully in yards and fields. Others think less kindly when they snack on gardens and strip buds off young trees. Deer will eat over 1,000 varieties of plants which makes the Garden State more like the ‘garden plate’ for hungry herds. Their voracious appetites are a persistent problem for gardeners.

But motorists face a worse problem. Deer frequently dart across Sparta’s roads, both day and night, and often cause costly accidents. This keeps car repair shops busy because all too often that cute distant cousin of Bambi ends up as road-kill. Since January of this year, Sparta Police Sergeant Ron Casteel reported 61 deer-related accidents in the township.

Township officials hope the new deer ordinance can reduce the herds enough to lessen the number of traffic-related deer incidents. It could also give some homeowners a break from the smelly sprays and concoctions they need just to keep their plants and shrubs from becoming a deer buffet.

Casteel said last week, “Deer cause a tremendous amount of damage in the township.”


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