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http://www.nj.com/news/times/index.ssf?/base/news-2/1110704903302190.xml

The Times
Sunday, March 13, 2005
By ROBERT STERN
Staff Writer
PRINCETON TOWNSHIP - The township has spent $793 per deer over the past five years on its deer-management program - three to four times the amount spent by other New Jersey municipalities that, like Princeton, have relied on hired sharpshooters to cull deer herds.

The township's total deer-management cost since the program's inception in the winter of 2000-2001 stands at $1.12 million, including money budgeted for this year and funds spent to fend off legal challenges to the program.

In return, the township's deer contractor - Connecticut-based White Buffalo Inc. - has culled 1,300 deer and treated 110 others with an experimental birth-control vaccine after wrapping up its fifth winter of work here last month.

Only six other New Jersey municipalities have relied on hired sharpshooters to reduce their deer populations since that option became available when the state enacted its community-based deer-management law in 2000, said state senior wildlife biologist Susan Martka.

At least three of those communities have paid, per deer killed, far less than Princeton has on culling and vaccination, including legal and other costs: $208 in Watchung, $225 in Bernards and $292 in Millburn.

Officials in the other municipalities that have used hired sharpshooters - Mountain Lakes, Summit and Bridgewater - did not return calls for comment.

Even if Princeton's $322,000 in deer-related legal expenses were taken out of the mix, its per-deer cost would be $565.

That's still much higher than Watchung, Bernards or Millburn paid, in part because of White Buffalo's implementation of a trial deer birth-control vaccination program in an area of Princeton where hunting and culling are banned.

Princeton is the only municipality in the state - and perhaps the country - to attempt suppressing population growth among free-ranging deer through a birth-control vaccine.

-- -- --

Princeton officials stand by their deer program, despite its price tag.

The township has reported a dramatic decrease in the volume of deer-vehicle collisions since the program began.

"We are feeding the hungry and protecting our environment and the public in a greater way because we are culling the herd in greater numbers" than the six other New Jersey municipalities that have used hired sharpshooters, said Mayor Phyllis Marchand.

Under state law, every municipality that uses hired sharpshooters for deer culling must donate the venison from the cull to New Jersey food banks.

Princeton Township reported a 61 percent reduction in deer-vehicle collisions since 2000, when 342 such accidents occurred, compared with 133 last year.

That's the lowest level since 1981, said Martka, the state wildlife biologist.

"With another 1,000 animals running around our community, it would be havoc with accidents, with public health, with property," Marchand said.

"I don't know whether, with all of those accidents that would have continued to occur, we would have been sued for being irresponsible and negligent for not making that situation better."

Princeton estimated its deer population to be between 1,300 and 1,600 deer at the onset of its program. Five years later, that population is estimated to be 375 deer - close to the goal of about 320.

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Every municipality that has used hired sharpshooters has done so at least in part to reduce the number of deer-vehicle collisions within its borders.

But Nancy Bowman, director of the animal-rights group Mercer County Deer Alliance, counters that municipalities can drastically reduce the number of traffic accidents without killing deer.

All it takes is installing and maintaining special roadside reflectors designed to keep deer from dashing into a vehicle's path at night, she said.

Such reflectors were installed on two miles of roads in Princeton Township a few years ago but the township reported they were ineffective.

Bowman, whose group helped spearhead unsuccessful legal challenges to the township's deer culling, counters that if the reflectors weren't effective, it was because the township failed to maintain them.

She said the installation cost for such reflectors is about $5,000 per mile and that they would only be needed on the roads with the highest accident rates.

Even if the township installed the deer reflectors along each of its 101 miles of road, the $505,000 one-time cost would be less than half the amount the township spent on its management program since its inception.

Township officials, however, have said that reducing accidents isn't the only reason for their program.

It also has been implemented to protect gardens and woodland underbrush and to reduce the threat of tick-borne Lyme disease, an illness that animal-protection advocates contend has little or nothing to do with deer.

-- -- --

State figures indicate White Buffalo culled about as many deer in Princeton Township as have been culled by hired sharpshooters in the six other municipalities that have paid to reduce their deer populations.

Princeton culled more deer in part because it alone allowed its contractor to use silenced rifles, rather than loud shotguns, and to work night and day to kill deer, Martka said.

Princeton also received clearance from various private property owners to allow White Buffalo to work on their lands, while the other municipalities restricted the work of their hired sharpshooters exclusively to public lands, Martka said.

And Princeton was the only municipality that allowed its contractor to trap deer in nets dropped from above and to kill them with a bolt gun that is typically used on cattle in slaughterhouses.

White Buffalo employed that method, labeled net-and-bolt, for three of its five years here in areas that are too densely developed for hunting or sharpshooting.

The township's program has withstood court challenges from both animal-rights activists and hunters.

Sports hunters alleged that White Buffalo's presence and tactics severely limited their ability to hunt deer here.

Also, hunters have maintained they would be able to keep the township's deer population in check - and do so at no cost to the township.

Princeton officials remain uncertain that sports hunters alone can keep their deer population from rebounding.

They note that a hunters group that has been allowed to hunt deer on 290 acres of township-owned land since late fall 2003 has killed only 29 deer through this winter.

-- -- --

Still, Marchand said the hunters in that group, United Bow Hunters of New Jersey, have been "fine supplements" to Tony DeNicola and White Buffalo.

"I hope that United Bow Hunters will continue to be able to work with us in greater numbers than we have seen the last two years," she said.

DeNicola is proposing his firm be hired next year, mainly to prevent the deer population from rebounding.

Also, it's possible that booster shots may be needed for a small number of deer that have received the multiyear birth-control vaccine, he said.

He estimates the effort, which likely would seek to cull about 100 deer next winter, would cost about $50,000. That's about $500 per deer.

Bowman said it would be a shame if the firm returned for more culling.

"All the township has done is provide a perpetual annuity for Anthony DeNicola," she alleged.

Township officials won't decide until later this year whether to hire White Buffalo to cull again.

In Marchand's view, it's tolerable to spend $500 to kill one deer if it means, for example, averting a traffic accident that could kill or seriously injure someone. Besides, most drivers have at least a $500 deductible on their automobile insurance, she said.

"Five hundred dollars is a lot. I don't make light of the cost," she said. "But I think our community understands why we had to make this very difficult decision and is willing to absorb it."
 

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Let me get this straight.... The township is paying out $500.00 so some sharpshooters can kill 1 deer? And it would be free to open it up to all New Jersey Hunters... I know I'm Dumb, but I can do that math.[confused]
 

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They note that a hunters group that has been allowed to hunt deer on 290 acres of township-owned land since late fall 2003 has killed only 29 deer through this winter.
They fail to mention that not all of the 290 acres are huntable due to 450' safety zones.

Plus we can only hunt 4 properties, where WB can almost go where ever they want, use night vision goggles, hi-power rifles with silencers, and sit on 1,000lb bait piles.
 

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I am really glad to see that hunters are being given an oppurtunity to help in the reduction effort. I want to believe that Princeton explored the use of hunters as an experimental program that would expand as the "sharpshooter" program has in the past few years. If given more lattitude like the "sharpshooters" have, i know that hunters would be more effective in reducing deer numbers. I am sure it was hard enough for the UBNJ just to get its foot in the door. Hopefully the Princeton municipality will see that hunters are effective and can only increase that effectiveness, if given some of the same oppurtunities that the "sharpshooters" are given, at no cost.
 

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They feel safer with a company like White Buffalo who treats it like a business and not a passtime. Too many idiot hunters give us a bad name by peppering houses and/or cars with shots or tresspassing ect. ect...
 
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