Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting

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Town Council Seals Fate of Deer in Watchung, NJ

To the Echoes-Sentinel of Watchung NJ...

It is unfortunate that the Township of Watchung is falling for the extremist pro-killing stance taken by a minority of its residents in regard to the deer living within the town boundaries. Despite reasoned arguments against hunting raised by three members of the Watchung Town Council, Mayor Albert Ellis chose to ignore science and the public interest and cast the deciding vote that sealed the deer's fate.

Mayor Ellis listened while a letter written by Division of Fish and Wildlife biologist Susan Martka was read during a recent town council meeting. In the letter, Ms. Martka said that it is biologically impossible to support a deer population of more than 1,700 in an area of only six square miles.

This means that the population estimates claiming a larger population that were given to the town council were inaccurate and not based on fact.

Initiating a hunt based on information that has been proven inaccurate is highly irresponsible, and implies a prejudice on part of Mayor Ellis and the council members who voted against the deer.

This decision by the town council may cost taxpayers $17,500 or more, and is unlikely to reduce the deer herd. Figures cited by the Union County Parks Department confirm this. The Parks Department documented a 27% rise in the deer population of Watchung Reservation in the four-year period following the start of hunting in 1994. Just before the hunt began, an aerial count showed 139 deer living on 4,600 acres of land. Another survey was conducted four years later and 177 deer were counted. This atrocious hunt resulted in the deaths of over 700 deer and cost taxpayers more than $200,000. All this, and the deer herd was seen to increase.

When deer are hunted, the surviving deer are left with more food, more habitat, and more breeding opportunities. As a result of this artificial reduction in the deer herd, does eat more, grow stronger and often carry twins and triplets - something that does not happen when deer populations approach a density that is ideal for a given area of habitat. This is how deer populations increase after hunting, and the Division of Fish and Wildlife and private deer killing special interests exploit this phenomenon for their own financial game while hiding behind the myth that deer hunting will work to reduce deer populations.

As town council members Debra Joren and Wayne Otto mentioned at the meeting, townships such as Princeton, Bridgewater and Bernardsville have drastically reduced deer accidents by using road reflectors and better street lighting, and this comes at a lower cost to taxpayers than killing. This measured, responsible approach should have been implemented as it would come much closer than hunting ever will to solving the township's deer problems, because hunting only exacerbates existing problems.

On behalf of our members and supporters in the township of Watchung and throughout New Jersey, we urge the town council to reverse the death sentence it handed to the deer and explore instead the plethora of non-violent population control options that have been proven effective in the long term. We would be happy to work with Watchung on implementing a non-violent deer management program.

Joe Miele
New Jersey Field Office
Wildlife Watch, Inc.

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