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The C.A.S.H. Courier

ARTICLE from the Winter 2008 Issue

SOUTH MOUNTAIN RESERVATION

Carol Rivielle of Save Our Wildlife took the lead in trying to stop the first deer hunt in South Mountain Reservation, an Essex County, NJ Park. Countess Ascynthia Courine also worked feverishly behind the scenes to stop it as well, but the forces that be, in the person of County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo are determined to see it through to the end. As many of you know, so much goes on in these battles, but in the end, there are great losses of those we try to protect and our hopes are dashed. When numbers are thrown at us, it’s easy to ignore the suffering of individuals, but Carol’s description brings it home:

Carol’s message was:

VALENTINE'S DAY ATROCITIES FOR ESSEX COUNTY'S SOUTH MOUNTAIN DEER MASSACRE.

People have to speak out. Their silence is killing more of our deer who are probably trying to hide out near houses as the following personal account of a South Orange resident shows. At 2 AM this Valentine's Day morning a SUV comes into South Orange and probably illegally shoots deer:

"At 2:am this morning I heard a dog barking and simultaneously 5 pops or what could have been perceived as gun shots. I looked out my window and saw a white SUV/truck heading up Hoskier which then made a u-turn at Whiteoak to go back down Hoskier."

Last Friday, Feb. 8th - reported Maplewood Police, Essex County Police and another person carrying pistol entered South Mountain Reservation and shot a wounded deer from the previous day's hunt. Deer seen running across road with blood in its mouth. Deer found dead on Maplewood on Grassmere Tues. Feb. 12th. Another report of a loose dog attacking wounded deer in South Mountain which had to be shot by officer .

ATV's seen used in five locations causing 6 - 8 inch ruts in trails - hoof prints of small deer seen in front of ATV tracks - Crest Drive. How are ATV's being used in this deer hunt - chasing wounded deer?

South Mountain's deer about to be EXTERMINATED - 139 deer slaughtered to date. DiVincenzo quoted West Orange Chronicle, "the HUNT WILL GO ON even after county reaches its quota...HUNTERS will continue to SHOOT AS MANY DEER AS POSSIBLE..."

DiVincenzo before hunt started: "this will NOT BE A TROPHY HUNT." Fish & Game Council meeting Feb. 7th stated how impressed they were that 10 year old stags being killed in SM because F&W's Larry Herrighty said deer being killed in NJ are less than 8 years old. Racks of antlers from SM's magnificent dead stags will be displayed at Essex County Environmental Center. Essex County IS MAKING THIS A TROPHY HUNT.

CONTACT: NJ DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATIVE LEADERS TODAY TELL THEM TO STOP THIS VALENTINE'S DAY MASSACRE OF SOUTH MOUNTAIN'S DEER NOW! BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE FOR SOUTH MOUNTAIN'S DEER!

Senate President Richard J. Codey (West Orange) Telephone: (973) 731-6770 e-mail: SENCODEY@NJLEG.ORG 

Assembly Majority Whip Bonnie Watson Coleman (Trenton) Telephone: (609) 292-0500 e-mail: ASWWATSONCOLEMAN@NJLEG.ORG 

Assembly Majority Whip John F. McKeon (West Orange) Telephone:(973) 275-1113 e-mail: ASMMCKEON@NJLEG.ORG 

Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey (South Orange) Telephone: (973) 762-1886 e-mail: ASWJASEY@NJLEG.ORG 

Assembly Deputy Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (Union) Telephone: (908) 624-0880 e-mail: ASMCRYAN@NJLEG.ORG 

Assembly Deputy Majority Leader Nilsa-Cruz Perez (Camden) Telephone (856) 541-1251 e-mail: ASWCRUZ-PEREZ@NJLEG.ORG 

Assembly Deputy Leader Thomas P. Giblin (Clifton) Telephone: (973) 779-3125 e-mail: ASMGIBLIN@NJLEG.ORG 

Assembly Deputy Conference Leader Joan M. Voss (Fort Lee) Telephone: (201) 346-6400 e-mail: ASWVOSS@NJLEG.ORG 

Sponsor of bill to reform Fish & Game Council (made up of 11 hunters) Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (Bayonne) Telephone: (201) 436-0473 e-mail: ASMCHIAPPONE@NJLEG.ORG

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In addition to letters and e-mail to town officials, C.A.S.H.. wrote the following letter to Governor Corzine on January 13th:

Wildlife Watch, Inc. is an animal protection organization that helps connect people, the environment, and wildlife and seeks to protect individual wild animals and species through education, political awareness and direct aid to animals in need. On behalf of our members and supporters in New Jersey, and specifically those in Essex County near the South Mountain Reservation, we wish to bring your attention to the misguided plan to use “sharpshooters” to kill deer at the Reservation, scheduled to commence on January 29, 2008. As an organization that works to protect wildlife and the areas where they live, we wish to list our objections to the Deer Management Program and the reasons that our objections are based upon, and we call upon you to cancel this hunt.

The 2008 Deer Management Program for South Mountain Reservation (revised 11/02/07) program guidelines list curtailing over-browsing of native vegetation in the Reservation, minimizing browsing of residential landscaping surrounding the Reservation, and minimizing the incidence of deer-related motor vehicle accidents as reasons that the deer hunt should take place.

As part of the hunt, hunters will be permitted to shoot deer over bait sites. This is a practice deemed unethical by many hunters and banned in many areas across the country. The Management Program sets no limit on the number of deer to be killed, and hunters will have no restrictions on the number of deer they may kill. With such unethical hunting practices and no restrictions in place, this hunt is aimed at extirpating the deer from the Reservation, an effort that has absolutely no conservation value.

Deer biology regulates their populations by the amount of food and habitat available. When deer over browse an area and reduce the food supply, fewer deer are able to survive and the population diminishes. As the population diminishes, native plant species are reestablished until deer populations rebound, beginning the cycle anew. When a population of deer is hunted, the dynamics of this symbiotic relationship between deer and the food supply are altered. In areas where hunting is allowed, deer respond by giving birth to more sets of twins than in areas free of hunting. (Labisky, R.F., Journal of Wildlife Management, 62, 1329-1334). Local proof of this can be seen with the deer hunts in Union County’s Watchung Reservation.

In 1994, an aerial count showed 139 deer on 4,600 acres of land, 2,000 of which was the Watchung Reservation, meaning that the Reservation was home to fewer than one-hundred deer when the hunts began. In the nine years following the first hunt, more than one-thousand deer were either killed or wounded in the Reservation. After each female deer was killed, a fetus count was conducted. The report documented that all of the pregnant females killed during the first hunt were carrying only one fetus. After the second year’s hunt, 57% of the pregnant deer that were killed were carrying twins. After the third year, 60% of the pregnant deer killed carried twins, and 8% carried triplets. (Deer Management Program For Watchung Reservation, Union County Parks Department 1997, p.25). This is the effect that hunting has on deer populations and the same explosive birth rate can be expected at the South Mountain Reservation if the hunt takes place.

The stated goal of the 2008 Deer Management Program is to “remove” 150 deer from the Reservation, but it is possible that there are fewer than 150 deer living there. During an October 15, 2007 meeting between Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Essex County Parks Department personnel, and an assembled group of wildlife advocates and experts, Mr. Bruce DeVita of the Essex County Parks Dept. stated that the deer population of South Mountain was estimated at "96" according to their last survey. Given the discrepancy between the estimates of the number of deer in the park, an accurate count of deer should be commissioned before any plans to kill the animals are allowed to go forward.

It is our opinion that the proposed hunt at the South Mountain Reservation may jeopardize public safety, since the Program requires that hunters fire slugs from shotguns. According to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, shotgun slugs can travel up to 3,780 feet – almost three-quarters of a mile – when fired. A study entitled "Do Shotguns and Muzzleloaders Pose Less Risk Than Centerfire Rifles for Hunting Deer in Pennsylvania" commissioned by the Pennsylvania legislature and released in March 2007 indicated that when combined with ricochet distance, slugs can travel 5,205 feet – nearly a full mile. Depending on where a hunter has set up within the South Mountain Reservation, there is a realistic chance that a slug can exit the Reservation and risk the safety of innocent passersby.

In regard to the degradation of native vegetation, one must take into account that there are other factors at work besides the deer. South Mountain Reservation is haven for illegal mountain biking activity that occurs without a concerted effort to stop it. Contributors to mountain biking websites encourage others to illegally ride there, and they call the conditions in the Reservation “the best riding in the state.” (“Goldy” posting to www.mtbr.com/trails/NewJersey/SouthMountainReservation.html ). This illegal activity takes place often at night, causing unknown amounts of soil erosion and damage to native vegetation. In the best interest of the health of the Reservation, law enforcement efforts to prevent against illegal activity need to become more vigilant.

Another significant factor contributing to the loss of native vegetation is the quality of the air. According to an article in the Star-Ledger dated May 31, 2006, "Essex County is ranked among the worst nationally for cancer risk from air pollution and number of bodies of water that do not meet state or federal water standards." In a report dated March 10, 2005, under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Air Interstate Rule, Essex County was listed second on a list of New Jersey's counties that would not meet health standards for ground level ozone by the year 2015. The U.S. EPA states that ground-level ozone damages vegetation and ecosystems, which leads to reduced growth and survivability of tree seedlings and increased susceptibility to diseases, pests and other stresses. Ground-level ozone also damages the foliage of trees and other plants.

While deer/vehicle collisions are a concern, there are simple measures that can be undertaken to solve the problem. By simply installing better roadway lighting where accidents occur and lowering and enforcing speed limits during the hours of dawn and dusk when deer are most on the move, deer/vehicle collisions will be greatly reduced. Inexpensive headlight reflectors positioned on the sides of roads can keep deer away from traffic. The Strieter-Lite reflector has been tested for years and has been proven to reduce car/deer collisions from 78% to 90%. If Essex County officials are truly concerned with the number of deer/vehicle collisions in the area of South Mountain Reservation, they need only to look to these simple measures to effectively address the problem.

Lastly, there is a recommendation in the 2008 Deer Management Program that hunting be used to maintain the deer herd “at or below an overwintering density of 20 deer/square mile (68 deer).” This is the heart of the matter. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife is alarmed by the loss of the number of hunters within the state over the past thirty-five years. According to statistics from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the number of hunters in the state had declined by more than 43% between 1973 and 2003. (http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/LicenseInfo/Hunting.htm) . A more recent study done by the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation lists the number of hunters in the state at 72,000 – meaning that the number of hunters has dropped by an additional 11% in just the past few years. The Division seeks to increase recreational hunting opportunities as a way to maintain interest in its hunting programs since its budget is met largely from the sale of hunting licenses and the collection of excise taxes that are affixed to the cost of weapons, ammunition and hunting equipment. Without encouraging hunting at South Mountain Reservation and elsewhere within the state, the Division of Fish and Wildlife will see its hunting programs slide into oblivion.

It is for these reasons why we oppose the 2008 Deer Management Program for South Mountain Reservation and why we respectfully request that plans for this hunt are tabled until the situation can be revisited and the data examined by an impartial panel, one that is not beholden to the state’s hunting interests. Please consider the points we have raised in our letter and review the information it contains. We will greatly appreciate your reply to this important issue.

Signed Joe Miele,
NJ Field Office

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