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Deer Bow Hunting Allowed, Feeding Banned

Residents raise concerns about safety and privacy, but generally want action on size of deer herd.

The Borough Council Wednesday approved a change in the local deer management ordinance that will allow bow hunting on certain borough-owned lands, and ban the feeding of deer.

Mayor Sylvia Petillo said the ordinance is a start to address the out of control problem of deer herd management in the borough.

Nearly everyday, she said, a resident tells her about a car-deer collision or that their dog has contracted Lyme disease. The ordinance puts in place two important efforts, Petillo said, deer-herd management and public education.

“It’s not just about accidents,” Petillo said. “It is also a health issue caused by the over population.”

To reinforce the point, Councilwoman Estelle Klein left the meeting after she was informed that her husband was involved in a car-deer incident. No information was immediately available on the incident.

Two state wildlife biologists were on hand Wednesday to provide background on the scope of the problem and to explain state hunting laws.

The regular public meeting also attracted about 30 residents, many of whom spoke in favor of reducing the size of the deer herd, but raised concerns about the safety of the potential hunt, who would be allowed to hunt under the new rules, and the proximity of the potential hunting sites to their homes.

Carole Stanko, a wildlife biologist with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, said in  2009 there were 40 car-deer accidents in Hopatcong, and in 2011, 93.

She said the accidents were concentrated along the roads on the west side of Lake Hopatcong. Deer are “an edge species,” she said, which means they live between grasslands and forests in places like golf courses, meadows and residential areas.

She said the damage that deer do to plants and landscaping is also a key reason for allowing the hunt. Deer can eat plants up to six feet from the count–a zone called the browse line–and cause great damage. An adult deer will eat between two and seven pounds of food per 100 pounds of its weight, Stanko said.

“That’s a lot of hosta,” she said.

She said the danger of many deer living in human residential communities is that the animals lose their fear of humans, and deer, when threatened, or in the middle of rutting season, can be dangerous.

Stanko said humans need to stop feeding deer. The feed attracts other animals  and birds, can spoil and cause illnesses in the deer herd, and, if the wrong feed is put out at the wrong time of the year, it can kill the deer.

“The deer do very well on their own,” she said.

She said New Jersey has recorded the fifth highest number of Lyme disease cases, and in 2009 and 2010, Sussex County had the second highest total in the state.

Cindy Kuenstner, also a state wildlife biologist, said that hunting is one of the safest recreational activities in the state.

In 2011 with over 4 million hunting days in New Jersey, a number determined by the number of hunters times the number of days when hunting is allowed, there were only nine hunting accidents statewide and none in Sussex County, she said.

In Hopatcong, only curved bows and cross bows will be allowed under the new ordinance, she said. Typically bow hunters try to shoot from a distance of 20 to 30 yards.

A new state law says a bow hunter can hunt within 150 feet of a building.

That rule, concerns about trespassing on private property, and wounded deer entering non-hunting parcels were among residents' key concerns.

Veterinarian Shelli Skeels raised many of the concerns that vexed residents of the Elba Point and Wildwood Shores areas of the borough, which are heavily populated by deer and, as a result, the areas of the highest levels of car-deer accidents.

A key concern, Skeels said, was the 150-foot distance that bow hunters would be allowed. The lots in her neighborhood are close together and contain many buildings and 150 feet is not enough room for safety. In addition, she said, the deer herd is very familiar to all in the neighborhood, so familiar, she said, “That  can tell you all their names.”

Another key concern is the possibility that hunters would wander into their yards, or that a wounded deer would enter the yard, followed  by  the hunter, she said.

Kuenstner said discussion among neighbors and with the hunters given borough permits would settle many of the residents’ questions.

She said their private property can be posted to warn hunters and agreements could be reached with their neighbors about how to handle such issues.

Those issues are not addressed in the  borough’s ordinance because the borough cannot control hunting on private property. How to address the issues on their own property is up to the property owners, Kuenstner said.

The ordinance will only allow bow hunting on certain borough properties, according to a schedule based on the state hunting season for the areas. Councilman Michael Francis said the ordinance provides a framework in which the deer management task force will operate. The task force will review the potential borough lands that would be open for hunting and prepare recommendations to the council in October. The task force will also meet with the hunters seeking permits.

Any task force action must be approved by the borough council, he said.

Borough permits would be needed to hunt, and no rifles or shot guns would be permitted. All bow hunting will be done from a platform that will force the hunter to shoot down on any target deer.

The ordinance says that the borough’s deer management task force would inform  the council about June 15 of each year whether a hunt is needed, and the areas where it should take place.

The ordinance sets out rules for the use of deer fencing, and bans the feeding of deer on public or private lands of less than five acres. A fine of $100 would be imposed.

Natalie Jarnstedt October 08, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Hunting is neither safe and especially not effective, and for anyone thinking that it's a fun way of managing wildife is perverse! Since when does anyone consider it fun to maim or kill animals? if this were done to pets, it would be considered animal cruelty! But doing the same to wildlife is NOT - where's the logic. It only proves that people will justify just about anything. Hunting may be part of the heritage only because frontiersmen had to hunt to survive, doesn't mean that it should have any part in today's society. Effective? You gotta be kiddin' me and everyone else - wanna buy a bridge in Brooklyn? If hunting were so effective, there wouldn't be a perceived overpopulation of deer or any other "managed" wildlife. Management's purpose is not to reduce populations, but to keep them at a level conducive to keep selling enough hunting licenses, keeping game numbers artificiallly managed, and supply a good "crop" easily available to hunters. Wildlife is managed for MSY, therefore, don't expect populations to be significantly reduced any time soon, except in the immedate aftermath of hunting season or cull! "Cindy Kuenstner, also a state wildlife biologist, said that hunting is one of the safest recreational activities in the state" - sounds a lot like propaganda to enourage hunting and proves the point that I made previously. If that were not the case, I doubt any serious wildlife biologist would get away with such a comment.
Natalie Jarnstedt October 08, 2012 at 04:32 PM
I'll tell you what needs to be done with deer - stop allowing state wildlife agencies to manage them - I bet the average resident, maybe even hunters who are dense, don't understand that wildife biologists have absolutely no intention of ever getting deer numbers lower - why? They'd be cutting off their noses to spite their faces! They need those hunting license fees, what would they do without them? They'd lose their jobs! Hunters are their only clients, they must be kept happy!
Barbara Metzler October 08, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Deer DO NOT cause Lyme Disease. Mayor Sylvia Petillo's dog did not get sick from deer. Deer do not infect ticks. Mice do. Without deer or other hosts, the ticks will then feed mostly on mice, increasing their chances to become infected with Borrelia. And, in areas free of predators such as foxes, the white-footed mouse population will increase dramatically and so will the number of infected ticks. Mice have three principal requirements to inhabit an area: variety of food, nearby water, and ground cover, which is extremely important for protection, whereas open space is dangerous. This is precisely why areas with thick ground cover (more than ankle-deep) averaged 23 times the tick populations of areas with sparse or low-lying vegetation. So, without the deer eating the ground cover, there will be many more ticks for those afraid of Lyme Disease. Also, where there are no deer to attract the ticks, the ticks land on people. Factors for acquiring Lyme disease include: participating in brush clearing activities from June through August, and the presence of birdfeeders, woods or rock walls on residential property. Mice and ticks find themselves at home in lawns and hedges and often hide in plants such as pachysandra. The disease moves into suburban backyards in part because the infected ticks are attracted to birdfeeders, as are Lyme-carrying birds and small mammals. Ticks are found on 49+ bird species, and at least 30 species of mammal.
MC October 09, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Barbara you should be happy about this it stops the people that hunt here in Hopatcong from shooting any bears here now they have a 300+ acre sanctuary that is deer hunting only! And with a limited range weapon my prediction is even more deer will be around next year!
Barbara Metzler October 10, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I could never be happy about any living creature being killed. It is Animal Cruelty. And, how special that a New Jersey Statute says that killing a living animal is Animal Cruelty, unless the killer is a hunter.

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