Residents Educated about Deer Dangers at Hopatcong Meeting
Thursday, September 20, 2012 • 8:35am
HOPATCONG BOROUGH, NJ - As council members discuss new ordinance to help lower the deer population, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife attended the Hopatcong Borough Council Meeting on Wednesday, September 19, to fully explain the dangers of deer overpopulation, and the safety of deer harvesting.
Before the meeting began, councilwoman Estelle Klein was ironically called away from the meeting with news that her husband had been hit by a deer while walking, after the deer had been hit by a car.
“The situation seems to e getting more severe as the year goes on,” mayor Sylvia Petillo commented to the crowd after announcing the reason for Klein’s absence.
Two representatives from the Division of Fish and Wildlife were invited to the meeting to provide an education for the community. The Mayor commented that deer hunters can cause anxiety within the community, but the overpopulation has now resulted in health issues along with the incredibly high deer-vehicle collision rate.
Carole Stanko, the Deer Management Project Leader for the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, began by explaining the problems with deer overpopulation, how it was caused, and provided a solution to the problem.
The first problem Stanko mention was the continuous deer human conflicts, especially the deer-vehicle collisions.
“These collisions seem to have skyrocketed within the past year," Stanko said.
She presented a map showing all the locations of deer-vehicle collisions and stated that when averaged, these equal nine collisions per square mile of Hopatcong,.
Another problem is the forest health/property damage.
“Deer can stand on their hind legs and eat up to six feet high,” Stanko said.
This damage is called a browse line.
The biggest health problem for residents is the spread of Lyme Disease. One resident commented that the deer were not causing the Lyme Disease, because rodents such as chipmunks were the second stage carriers. But Stanko responded that if there were fewer deer, the ticks would have nothing to feed on, and would not be spreading like they are now.
Stanko then explained deer ecology and management. One of the reasons for increased population is the feeding of the deer by residents. Feeding gives the deer unnaturally high nutrition, resulting in more births.
In natural conditions, a doe has one baby when she is one and a half years old, and usually one has one fawn other years. However, because of the high population and extra feeding, fawns are now giving birth at six months old, and then adult does are having twins or triplets.
Because of this high reproduction rate, Stanko commented that New Jersey has some of the most liberal deer hunting regulations, with a five month deer hunin season, and unlimited antlerless bagging.
Feeding the deer can result in the deer losing their fear of humans. Taming a wild animal is not respecting the animal,” Stanko said.
New Jersey considers deer potentially dangerous, because they can eviscerate you with their hooves, and both bucks and does have been known to attack humans.
Feeding deer may even end up killing the deer. If a resident feeds deer the wrong food during the wrong season, extreme digestive trauma will result, and the deer will die.
The second part of the presentation was an explanation of the safety of hunting, even in residential areas. Cindy Kuenstner, a Wildlife Biologist in the office of Information and Education, explained hunting regulations statewide. Hopatcong would only allow bow hunting, which is a very safe, effective and efficient for harvesting deer. Hunters would also only be able to hunt from an elevated position, which is also safer for residents.
During the question and answer time of the meeting, many residents expressed their desire to control the deer problem, but also concern about safety.
One resident felt that hunting as a sport should not be allowed, because it is unfair for the deer are practically tame. However, the Fish and Wildlife representatives explained that this hunting would not be for sport, but is actually a deer harvest to solve an overpopulation problem.
One councilman said, “This will not be a free-for-all. There will be a specific management, because we’re trying to restore a natural balance.”
The biggest benefit to allowing hunting in the area is that unregulated hunting will be monitored as well. Kuenstner reminded the residents that hunters assigned to a specific area of the town would be watching to make sure no other residents were illegally hunting in that area.