|Back to SMC home page|
DEER MANAGEMENT TASK FORCE
REPORT OF AUGUST 2006
"Deer are simply heeding the biological imperative to go forth and multiply. With no natural predators, and the suburbs a year-round salad bar, they have slipped out of their ecological niche--and it's our fault, not theirs. The deer did not ask human beings to create the kind of predator-free suburban landscapes in which they now thrive. But the mountain lion, gray wolf and bobcat are not about to return and the houses and highways are staying put. People therefore, must own up to their place in a compromised food chain and assume the responsibility for managing it well."
The New York Times, March 20, 2005
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. CONCLUSIONS REACHED BY THE TASK FORCE B. RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE TASK FORCE
C. FACTORS CONSIDERED BY THE TASK FORCE
D. ADDITIONAL MATERIAL
EXPERTS AND CONSULTANTS
APPENDIX 1. NEW JERSEY DEER MANAGEMENT LAW
APPENDIX 2: METHODS OF DEER HERD REDUCTION
APPENDIX 3: HISTORY OF DEER ISSUES IN MILLBURN
APPENDIX 4: LIFE CYCLE OF THE DEER TICK
APPENDIX 5: SUMMARY OF SEX/AGE CLASS, CONDITION AND REPRODUCTION DATA FOR DEER REMOVED BY WATCHUNG RESERVATION AGENT PROGRAM
A. CONCLUSIONS REACHED BY THE TASK FORCE
After a period of study that has involved research, discussion, and personal interviews with acknowledged experts, the Task Force finds that free-ranging white-tailed deer must be controlled for reasons of health, safety, serious destruction to the forest understory, and damage to property. Specifically we list these findings:
|"After reviewing all available management programs (for forest and
meadow), hunting is the first recommended management option with
sharpshooting a second recommended option."
South Mountain Reservation Assessment and Restoration Plan, June
5. In the long term, the deer problem can be solved most effectively on a multi-community basis with the cooperation and leadership of Essex County, because the deer move freely over large portions of Essex County, and Millburn Township has jurisdiction over only a small part of the area affected by the deer population. In emulation of Union County, Essex County must spearhead the task of arriving atdeveloping the consensus among the Townships bordering the South Mountain Reservation. According to State Law, each municipality must apply separately to the NJ Div. of F/W for a permit to run a Community Deer Management Program. Our common goals of protecting public health, public safety and forest health are most effectively realized by a multi-community action.
6. Lethal means are necessary and the only legal and effective means of reducing and maintaining the number of deer within our suburbs and reservations. (See options, Appendix 2)Of the currently available methods of deer herd reduction (summarized in Appendix 2) only the lethal ones are simultaneously licit, effective, and affordable. There is at this time no contraception method that has been proven to be effective. There is not option to transfer deer to any other location.
7. In areas removed from housing, culling by professional sharpshooters is safe and effective. In the South Mountain Reservation, a tightly secured program of controlled hunting would be effective and affordable. In larger, municipal properties such as Gero Park, "dart and euthanize" can be effective. For suburban neighborhoods, such as Short Hills and South Mountain, where isolated "pockets" of deer are the problem, well-established trapping methods can be employed.
8. The Task Force notes that with respect to the deer, neither their contribution to Lyme disease nor their effect on the ecology are currently valid reasons for state approval of deer herd reduction. However, these issues are so important that the N. J. Division of Fish and Wildlife may agree that they belong under the "agriculture" provisions of the governing statute, and provide justification. In the worst case, the statute may have to be changed to allow for action and redress.
Because the Township has the responsibility to protect the life, health and property of our residents; and because the Township also is the steward of our forested areas; and because no mechanism exists that would reduce the number of deer except human intervention, there being no predators present; the Task Force's principal suggestion is the systematic and ongoing removal of deer in both residential areas and forested reservations to achieve and maintain a density well under 5 deer per square mile. There follows a detailed list of specifics:.
The Task Force recommends that the Township undertake the following actions as quickly as possible and continuing thereafter:
1. Pass a resolution urging the County of Essex to assume a leadership role in the reduction of deer in its parks and reservations by carrying out, without delay, the
recommendations relating to deer in its "Master Plan" for the South Mountain Reservation provided by PPE (Professional Planning and Engineering). The resolution should suggest that Essex County follow the model of Union County in Watchung Reservation by organizing a special deer management area (under the New Jersey statute regulating such programs), consisting of the five municipalities contiguous to or overlapping the South Mountain Reservation, with the object of reducing the herd in both forested and residential areas to well under 5 per square mile, and maintaining that number. Essex County should not just wait for the requisite consensus among the municipalities to happen, but should actively pursue its formation, to protect the large environmental/ecological stake that we all hold in the South Mountain Reservation.
2. Develop a long-term reduction/maintenance plan using lethal means.
3. Resume culling by sharpshooters on those limited public lands over which Millburn has jurisdiction.
4. Remove the "pocket "deer by darting and euthanasia wherever the terrain and surrounding areas allow, and otherwise by trap and euthanize.
5. Institute Monitor ongoing a limited tests of the GnRH deer contraceptive to foster further research onstudy the effectiveness of contraception for a free-ranging deer population.
6. Assume all the costs for deer-related removal activities, as the animals are not any resident's property, and they represent a health and safety risk to all residents.
7. Disseminate information in Millburn Township regarding awareness, symptoms, prevention, detection, and treatment of Lyme disease, as a joint effort of the Township Committee, the Board of Education, and the Township Health Department, (to include newsletters, presentations, and a web-page on aspects of deer management such as Lyme disease, accidents, and forest health.)
8. Create a community support campaign for the Lyme disease bills (S1479) and (HR3427) in the U. S. Congress.
9. Pass an ordinance imposing financial penalties for feeding deer.
10. Pass an ordinance imposing financial penalties foror interfering with the removal of deer. People who feed deer, or who interfere with the removal of deer, are contributing to the incidence of highway collisions, Lyme disease, and destruction of forest and landscaping.
11. Monitor the several existing exclosure areas to establish the relative health of deer-free and deer-inhabited areas. (Exclosure: a fenced area that prevents deer from entering. Example: Cora Hartshorn Arboretum Wildflower Preserve.)
12. Request the Millburn Board of Education to permit culling within the Oakey Tract for the reason of promoting public health and safety.
13. Conduct an annual roadside "distance sampling" (statistical method) count of deer, and supplement this with less frequent (more expensive) "hot shot" aerial counts.
14. Seek support from state elected representatives for Assembly Bill A2830, calling for a reduction of the approval area for culling on private property from a 450 ft radius to a 150 ft radius from an occupied building.
15. Constitute and empower an ongoing Ad Hoc Committee to promote public education about deer management, develop a management plan, and provide an annual review.
Martine Donofrio, Chair
Vaclav E Benes
Sandra Haimoff, Township Committee Representative
James Suell, Township Committee Representative
C. FACTORS CONSIDERED BY THE TASK FORCE
1. PUBLIC HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS (LYME AND OTHER DISEASES)
Lyme disease is a serious health threat that has been increasing substantially in every NJ county during the last several years. According to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the white-tailed deer is instrumental in the spread of Lyme disease. A single white-tailed deer can host enough adult ticks to produce 1.5 to 3 million eggs and larvae the following spring.; The Township has a responsibility to protect its residents from this and other potentially catastrophic diseases carried by the deer tick.
Lyme Disease Foundation director Thomas Forschner said in an interview on March 28, 2006, "There is definitely a relationship between the number of deer and the number of Lyme cases. If we could control the deer we could control the incidence of Lyme disease." He added, "I don’t care what it takes, I want to end this disease."
American Lyme Disease Foundation director David Weld said in an interview, also in March 2006, "We strongly support efforts to significantly reduce the deer population, which in turn will help eliminate Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases."
The disease is caused by a spirochete transmitted through the bite of the nymphal stage of the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), whose earliest host is a small animal such as the mouse, chipmunk, vole or shrew. White-tailed deer pick up the adult ticks from the small animals and become the chief carrier of the Ixodes scapularis in the suburbs (in rural areas, horses and cattle may carry the adult tick). According to the CDC, "Deer are important in transporting ticks and maintaining tick populations."
Dr. Kirby Stafford, the vice director and chief entomologist at the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station, explained on June 8, 2006, "There is a direct correlation between the number of deer in an area and the amount of reported cases of Lyme disease." He cited an example: Monhegan Island, a 586-acre island off the coast of Maine, had more than 100 deer per square mile and by 1996 13% of the residents had contracted Lyme disease in 1996 alone. Because of this, the residents voted to completely rid the island of deer and from November 1996 toby August 1999, all the deer were removed.
"By the summer of 2003, no larvae or nymphs were recovered (on Monhegan Island) and very few adult ticks were recovered, and this continues. This shows how fundamental deer are to the abundance of ticks," Stafford said.
"Since the deer extirpation was completed, Maine medical researchers have monitored human health and tick incidence on Monhegan Island. After a lag of two to three years, the tick population has crashed and there have been no new human cases of Lyme disease on the island." Community Based Deer Management Northeast Wildlife Damage Management Research and Outreach Cooperative, Cornell University, 2004
Below: Larvae and Nymphs found on rodents on Mohnegan Island before and after removal of white-tailed deer. (Stafford, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.)
Clearly, removal of deer from residential areas has been shown to be effective in reducing the incidence of the disease;
"By 2004, no immature I. scapularis could be found on rodents on Monhegan Island.":
A nine-year study conducted in Mumford Cove, Connecticut, shows conclusively that incidence of Lyme disease exactly mirrors the population of white-tail deer. (Kilpatrick and LaBonte, 2003) In 1998, with about 100 deer per square mile, there were nearly 30 new Lyme cases per 100 homes. When the deer were reduced through hunting to 10 per square mile, new cases of Lyme disease fell to 3 per 100 homes.
On May 4, 2006 the Star Ledger reported that NJ had 3,372 cases of Lyme disease in 2005, up from 2,740 cases in 2004. NJ is now third in the U. S. for reported cases. Millburn’s reported cases have doubled over the last 3 years, from 8 in 2003 to 17 in 2005. Since many cases are undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed, the actual totals may be much higher. Congressional research indicates that possibly as few as 10% of Lyme disease cases are reported. Untreated or misdiagnosed cases may result in severe neurological disorders, sometimes resulting in lifelong disability for the victim.
A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a median school absence in NJ of 103 days per student affected by Lyme disease. A Columbia University Medical Center study reports an average 22 point IQ drop in students affected by Lyme, which is reversed by successful treatment. A Congressional investigation indicates that Lyme disease costs $61,688.00 per year, per patient, in treatment cost and work time lost. Lyme disease costs the nation nearly $2. billion annually.
These figures, while sobering, are not the full story of the effects of the disease. Lyme disease is a serious health threat unless treated promptly upon exposure for 2 weeks with the antibiotic, Doxycycline, or another appropriate antibiotic. The telltale bull’s eye rash is present in only 10-40% of the cases, and the disease may masquerade as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, or Flu.
Millburn residents are deeply concerned about the threat of Lyme disease. (See attached news articles.) Residents and local medical professionals need education in prevention, diagnosis, and early treatment.
Lyme disease control depends on reducing the number of Ixodes ticks, either
the number of winter hosts for the adult ticks, principally the white-tailed deer,
or by reducing the number of spring/summer hosts (mice and chipmunks). The latter are
clearly not a realistic population-reduction target on a Township-wide or area-wide basis. Moreover, in the Township and vicinity, there are essentially no large mammalian
hosts other than deer and humans.
Chemical repellents, fencing and electronic devices are not effective for reducing the
threat of Lyme disease. Even if deer stay on a property for only a short period of time, they can still deposit the ticks. The small mammal carriers from neighboring properties will not be impeded by a fence.
The Task Force noted that among the general public there is a great deal of
misinformation and misunderstanding regarding the complex
relationship of ticks, rodents, deer, Lyme disease, and humans. Much of this
appears to arise from the details of the deer tick life cycle, including the fact that
the deer tick is "multi-hosted." An appendix on this life cycle is included among the Addenda.
Legislation related to Lyme disease has been initiated in both houses of Congress by delegates from CT, PA, NJ (Rep. Christopher Dodd) and NY to authorize an additional $20. million annually for the next five years to be spent for Lyme disease research, education and prevention: the Senate bill is S1479 and the House bill is HR3427.
Supplying a further cause for concern, the NY Times Health Section article of June 19, 2006 (p.2) indicates the increased incidence of the deer-tick borne illness, Babesiosis, which is "spreading along the same routes as Lyme disease. Babesiosis is much less common than Lyme, but in rare cases can kill with malaria-like fevers." For more information, see the ADDENDA.
2. HIGHWAY AND ROAD SAFETY
In 2003, approximately 5,000 deer-vehicle crashes were reported in the 13
counties in northern New Jersey under the jurisdiction of the NJTPA. Based
on the experiences of other states, the actual number of crashes is probably much higher, perhaps double. (North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority Development, March 2005)
More than 1.5 million DVCs occurred in the United States in 2002, causing at
least $1.1 billion in vehicle damage and killing about 150 humans and at least
million deer. (Wildlife Management Fact Sheet, Cornell University Cooperative Extension 2005)
There were 1.5 million deer and vehicle crashes in 2003, injuring 13,713 people and causing $1.1 billion in vehicle damage. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, November 2004)
The following is excerpted from: Strategies for Addressing Deer Vehicle Crashes (DVC),
North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, March 2005
A number of recent highway studies show that some factors indicating the probability that a roadway segment would be a high DVC segment include: proximity to woodlands; number of bridges, number of lanes, in-line visibility, posted speed limit, lack of fencing, adjacent area closed to hunting; daily vehicle travel miles; local deer harvest. No studies have been conducted over a large geographic area. Fewer than half a dozen studies have been published that relate to hunting to achieve reduction in smaller areas (a city or park.) Among them are Princeton Township, New Jersey; Oak Ridge Reservation, Tennessee; Ned Brown Forest Preserve, Illinois; and River Hills, Wisconsin.
From Princeton Township, 2006:
Year Deer/Vehicle Accidents
Pre-program: 2000 342
With culling program 2001 245
" 2002 170
" 2003 128
" 2004 127
" 2005 100
Union County, New Jersey Watchung Reservation,
Oak Ridge Reservation, Tennessee
Deer hunts were initiated in 1985 in response to increases in the number of deer/vehicle collisions. Yearly deer/vehicle collisions have been reduced from 273 to 143.
Ned Brown Forest Preserve, Illinois
Sharpshooters, rocket netting and drive netting were employed to increase vegetation and to reduce DVC. Collisions were reduced from 37 per year to 13.
River Hills, Wisconsin
438 deer were relocated 1987-1992. DVC declined accordingly. "Before we started trapping in 1986-'87, we had 76 car kills. And if you've ever seen a car-deer crash, they're very destructive to both parties," Tollaksen said. "Last year we had eight."
No positive correlation appears in Millburn’s deer culling vs. Deer Vehicle Collisions (DVC). The principle reason for this may be that the great majority of Millburn’s recorded DVCs occur on in the vicinity of JFK Parkway, adjacent to NJ American Water Preserve lands where no culling has been practiced.
Jan- Jun 2006
Of the 66 deer/auto collisions in areas where Strieter Lite reflectors were present on Millburn roadways, 16 took place in daylight hours. 75% (50) occurred in dusk or darkness, when auto headlights would have been in use (calculated using NOAA sunrise/sunset data per month).
36% (66/180) of all Millburn DVCs occurred in areas where Strieter Lite reflectors were present. From Strategies for Addressing Deer Vehicle Crashes, Wisconsin Dept Transportation 2004, regarding reflectors: "extensive testing has shown these devices have no impact on the number of crashes."
The statement below is excerpted from School of Forest Resources, University of Georgia, February 2006, "Ineffectiveness of wildlife warning reflectors for altering deer behavior along roadways."
"Using forward-looking Infrared Technology, we observed 1,370 behavioral responses of white-tailed deer relative to roadways before and after installation of wildlife warning reflectors during 90 observation nights. Based on our observations, wildlife warning reflectors were ineffective in changing deer behavior such that deer-vehicle collisions might be prevented. Our results provide no justification for the use of optical reflectors to minimize deer-vehicle collisions."
2006 was the first year for which data on personal injury was recorded. Of 9 deer/auto accidents (Jan-June), 4 took place in areas where reflectors were present. Of the 4 involving injuries, two took place in areas where reflectors were present, both occurring during daylight hours (May 5 at 8:22 am, and June 30 at 8:52 am).
Figures given for deer/auto collisions do not include MVAs taken by other law enforcement agencies, e.g., the NJ State Police on Routes 28 and 78, and the Essex County Sheriff’s Office in South Mountain Reservation. These figures are not available to us.
The great majority of Millburn’s recorded DVCs occur in the vicinity of JFK Parkway, adjacent to NJ American Water Preserve lands, and along South Mountain Reservation boundaries where no culling has been practiced. (Source: Millburn Police Department)
North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority recommends the following measures to reduce DVCs:
1. Cost benefit studies indicate that 8 foot high exclusionary fencing should be installed on one side of the road if 8 carcasses per year; both sides if 16; both sides combined with wildlife crossing if 24 deer carcasses are recovered per year.
2. Clear underbrush from side of the road in high crash areas.
3. Textured pavement is suitable for localized use in high animal crossing areas.
4. Encourage hunting or herd reduction.
5. Public education
The NJ TPA advises motorists: "Buckle up, slow down, stay alert, and do not swerve to avoid hitting a deer. If a crash is inevitable, brake firmly (don't swerve) hold on to the steering wheel and come to a controlled stop.
Regardless how you feel about destroying any animal, it is your best choice. A review of many years of crash statistics shows that very few motorists are injured or killed by the act of simply striking a deer. No animal's life is worth your own, your passenger's or the occupants of another vehicle."
3. BIOSYSTEM (ECOLOGICAL) IMPACT
From the Minutes of 5/23/06
DMTF member Vaclav Benes, as a guest of the Maplewood deer management committee, took a walking tour of South Mountain Reservation with wildlife biologists from the Audubon Society to assess the forest understory as a guest of the Maplewood deer management committee. They pointed out numerous examples of deterioration, and remarked that "left untreated, the forest there would be gone in a hundred years."
The following is excerpted from NJ Audubon’s Forest Health White Paper, March 2005.
Overabundant White-tailed Deer
Deer are more abundant today than ever before. In many regions of New Jersey, they are driving rapid ecosystem alterations resulting in local extirpation of native plants and a subsequent takeover by invasive species. While white-tailed deer are clearly a native inhabitant of New Jersey, their current level of abundance is not. Since European settlement, white-tailed deer have expanded their geographic range and have greatly increased in abundance. Methods used to estimate pre-settlement deer densities have reported an average density of 2-4 deer per square kilometer (5-10/sq mi) (McCabe and McCabe 1997); Alverson et al. 1988). Present day deer densities in New Jersey exceed these estimates. Statewide, deer densities range from a low of 5 deer per sq km in South Jersey in the Pine Barrens up to 30 per sq km in central New Jersey. However, some local populations of deer are estimated to be as high 78 deer per km (NJ Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife 1999).
(NOTE: From June, 2006 PPE report on South Mountain Reservation: "A deer survey conducted in March 2004 revealed a population density of 63 deer per square mile. (Predl 2005) Since then the females have given birth to one to three fawns, raising the possible number of deer to 93 per square mile.)
New Jersey’s natural ecosystems evolved under less intense pressure from browsing animals. The pre-settlement landscape of New Jersey included additional herbivores, i.e., elk and moose, but also included native predators of these animals, including mountain lion, grey wolf, and bobcat. While bobcats, wolves, moose and elk proved inadaptable to environmental conditions brought by settlement, after an initial decline, deer were able to adapt and thrive in this environment. Deer are browsers that thrive in fragmented landscapes complete with high amounts of edge that provide an abundance of browse.
(A) favored food for browsing deer is buds and young shoots of woody shrubs and saplings…When browsing on woody plants, deer show clear preferences, with sugar maple, white ash, oaks, yellow poplar, hemlock, white pine and white cedar being a few of their favorites (Drake et al. 2002)…A 20-year study of vegetation in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania revealed that deer herd had depleted the browse supply and damaged reproduction of hemlocks and hardwoods, effectively preventing forest recovery (Hough 1965).
If a forest or shrubland is subjected to continued elevated deer densities, the understory and mid-story layers will disappear. The long-term impact of such a scenario is the creation of "deer savannas" or "deer parks." These aesthetically pleasing but biologically destitute areas are characterized by higher densities of ferns and grasses (species not preferred by deer) or park-like habitats of large trees completely lacking as understory that are clear and open beneath, allowing extensive visibility for ling distances (Rooney 2001). Such drastic changes in forest structure also impact wildlife. DeCalesta (1994) found that both species richness and abundance declined significantly for intermediate canopy nesting birds…on heavily browsed sites with a number of species absent entirely from browsed areas. Casey and Hein (1983) found species nesting in forest understory and midstory at higher abundances on lightly browsed sites versus heavily browsed sites with many species found exclusively on the lightly browsed sites…These results show clear evidence of eventual avian species impacts and losses under increasing browsing pressure.
For those birds that actually succeed in fledgling young within heavily browsed areas, their effort may still be futile. Viga-River et al. (1998) found that Wood Thrush seek shrubby, second growth areas within the forest during the post fledging stage to take advantage of heavier cover and food sources available in these areas. Young fledglings lacking adequate areas close to the nest site face a greater predation risk as they move longer distances seeking cover and food. Young birds in a heavily browsed forest are doomed. It provides no such sites for the newly fledged birds.
Lethal control of white-tailed deer populations has proven highly successful at significantly reducing local deer herds over a short period of time (Frost 1997). At the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, a deer hunting program has been used for 30 years to control the deer population (Hollein 2004). Initial positive vegetation responses have been recorded in years immediately following initiation of managed hunts in extremely overbrowsed parks (Mitchell et al. 1997).
4. DEER AND PRIVATE PROPERTY
Upon request by the NJ Fish and Wildlife, and in order to qualify under the law for state approval of its Deer Management Plan, Millburn distributed a survey and received feedback from residents regarding property damage due to browsing by deer in 2002. Of those responding, 78% reported significant property damage.
Millburn Lyme disease victim Jacqueline Spar believes that she contracted the disease by means of a tick bite sustained on the family’s property. "About 70 percent of infected people are bitten in their own yards," says David Weld, executive director of the American Lyme Disease Foundation. (Health A to Z, June, 2006)
Not only do suburban deer create a nuisance and health hazard for property owners, they can also create additional browsing pressure on adjacent forests: The following is taken from NJ Audubon’s Forest Health White Paper, March 2005:
"With freedom from predation, high birth rates and increased longevity, suburban areas can experience exponential deer population growth. Suburbia also shelters deer from another major source of natural mortality—harsh winter food shortages. In a suburban interface, ornamental shrubs and even feeders (both bird and deer) provide an ample source of winter food. Supplemental food sources during winter can serve to concentrate deer, and may make the browse impact on adjacent natural vegetation even more severe (Doenier et al. 1997)."
5. DEER POPULATIONS IN SPECIFIC NEIGHBORHOODS
It is recognized by the DMTF that different standards and different control methods must be applied when dealing with deer that wander through 1) forested areas, 2) wooded suburban neighborhoods, and residential areas (that may beare adjacent to wooded lands); and as opposed to those deer that spend their time in rural settings far from wooded areas in 3) suburban neighborhoods far removed from forested areas. Deer inhabiting this third category are referred to in this document as "pocket deer."
For the first case, the natural constraint expressed in the BCC (Bioilogical Carrying Capacity) is overshadowed by considerations of health, cleanliness, highway safety, and property damage:the NJ Fish and Wildlife Service contends that the acceptable number of deer in suburban areas is zero.
1)For the second case Regarding forested areas, a study conducted in Pennsylvania shows that when deer density rises above 20 deer/sq. mile, there is a significant impact to the forest (Decalesta, 1997). This figure, while suitable for much of Pennsylvania, is too high for Essex County. In the opinion of Audubon biologist Troy Ettel, a severely impacted area such as the South Mountain Reservation, whose understory is virtually non-existent, needs to have a deer density close to zero maintained over a decade in order to recover. For this reason the DMTF recommends a target population of no more than 5 deer per acre (preferably fewer) for a period of 10 years to allow for forest recovery.
2.) Properties that are adjacent to South Mountain Reservation can always expect to have a small number of deer that come out of the Reservation in search of attractive landscape plantings. With Reservation deer at fewer than 5 per square mile, this should be rare.
3.) In the case of "pocket deer," the natural constraint expressed in the BCC (Biological Carrying Capacity) is overshadowed by considerations of health, cleanliness, and property damage. The NJ Fish and Wildlife Service contends that the acceptable number of such deer in suburban areas is zero. Complaints received from Millburn residents reveals their anxiety and frustration over herds of deer visiting their property at will.
It appears then that the residential suburbs and the Reservation areas of Millburn both call for a target deer density close to zero, say less than 5 deer per square mile..
Recommended control methods for the three regions enumerated above will differ.
6. COMPARABLE COMMUNITY DEER MANAGEMENT PLANS
DMTF collected deer management reports from the following entities:
South Mountain Reservation Assessment and Restoration Plan, PPE LLC 2006
Fairfield County Deer Alliance, Connecticut
NJ Audubon Society Forest Health White Paper
Watchung Reservation, Union County NJ
In some rural areas, a combination of sports hunting and culling by sharpshooters is sufficient to keep the local deer herd at an acceptable level. The best example of this is Bridgewater Township; this area has a large number of resident sports hunters that support the program.
The area most comparable to the South Mountain Reservation is Watchung Reservation in Union County. A successful and cost-effective multi-community program has been in operation there that relies on controlled sports hunting. After twelve years of this program, the desired level of deer density has been reached, by means of 12 volunteers operating for 3 days per year.
Princeton Township utilizes sharpshooting; has instituted "net and boltTrap and euthanize" removal; and has also experimented with contraception. Problems encountered with contraception include: a bad batch that was ineffective; a longer period of estrus in treated does leading to an extended period in which bucks pursue does across roads; reported pregnancies by does inoculated three years ago.
ADDENDUM A: BACKGROUND
The Deer Management Task Force (DMTF) was constituted and appointed in April 2006 by request of the Township Committee. The group was charged to investigate the scope of the deer/human interaction in Millburn Township and to recommend courses of action by no later than August 31, 2006.
The DMTF was empowered to hold closed door meetings, and to invite experts of its choosing to testify. The appointed members of the group are recorded in Addendum A, attached.
Two members of the Township Committee, James Suell and Sandra Haimoff, participated in its work and discussions. Mayor Baer attended its first meeting for a short time. At no time were more than two members of the Township Committee present at any meeting of the DMTF.
The DMTF met on 14 occasions. Most of those meetings were attended also by expert witnesses or knowledgeable persons, or experts were interviewed by telephone conference. One subcommittee was formed to investigate further the issue of Lyme disease as it relates to deer in a suburban environment.
The group gathered documents from comparable communities, from government agencies, from the Internet, and from members of our own community in pursuit of its goals. Matters were decided by majority vote, but Township Committee members did not vote. Mrs. Eleanorlen Wallen acted as Recording Secretary, Ms. Martine Donofrio as Chair, and Arnold Selby as Co-Chair.
ADDENDUM B: EXPERTS AND CONSULTANTS
Chief, Bureau of Park Operations, County of Union
Elizabeth, NJ 07207
Dr. Kirby Stafford
Vice Director and Chief Entomologist
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
123 Huntington Street, Box 1106, New Haven, CT 06504
Wildlife Biologist, Connecticut Dept Environmental Protection Wildlife Division
391 Route 32, North Franklin, CT 06254
Chair, Deer Program Evaluation Committee
Anthony DeNicola, Ph.D.
President, White Buffalo, INC.
Senior Wildlife Biologist
NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife
502 E State Street, 3d floor
Trenton NJ 08625
NJ Audubon Society
11 Hardscrabble Road
Bernardsville, NJ 07924
908-766-5787 ext. 17
A RESOLUTION BY
THE MILLBURN TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE
URGING ESSEX COUNTY TO INSTITUTE A PROGRAM OF
COMMUNITY DEER MANAGEMENT
Now whereas wildlife biologists have called attention to serious overpopulation and destructive overgrazing by white-tailed deer throughout the Northeastern United States,
and whereas such conservation organizations as the National Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy have decried the effects of deer overpopulation on the habitats of other flora and fauna, and have pointed to the notorious "browse line" below which only plants unpalatable to deer can grow,
and whereas Millburn Township Forester Tom Doty has made a sobering presentation to the Millburn Township Environmental Commission on the connection between deer overgrazing and the influx of invasive plants,
and whereas the Center for Disease Control and other health authorities have identified the white-tailed deer as a principal host for spreading the tick Ixodes scapularis which carries the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and other agents that can cause debilitating neurological disorders,
and whereas the circulation of the large deer population across roads and highways has led to many deer-automobile collisions, at all times of the day,
and whereas it has been observed that the deer in Essex County are not restricted to forested areas such as South Mountain Reservation, Eagle Rock Reservation, or water company lands, but also live in small groups or pockets in suburban gardens where they pose a health hazard and inflict substantial damage to landscaping,
and whereas Millburn Township has carried out various deer management procedures on limited properties in its jurisdiction, but realized that a complete solution of the problems could only be achieved by working with the neighboring communities and Essex County,
and whereas the State of New Jersey has a detailed statute (Chapter 46, C.23:4-42.3 et seq.) governing community deer management under the Division of Fish and Wildlife,
and whereas Union County, in concert with the townships adjoining or overlapping the Watchung Reservation has in recent years carried out a successful program of community deer management under the New Jersey statute, providing experience and a nearby model for deer herd control,
and whereas Essex County has, at the behest of local municipalities and the South Mountain Conservancy, funded and received a Master Plan for the South Mountain Reservation prepared by Professional Planning and Engineering (PPE) that calls for a stringent deer management program in that Reservation,
now therefore, the Township Committee of Millburn calls on Essex County, for the health of the citizens and the restoration of their parks, to institute a county-wide program of community deer management in both suburbs and reservations, open to the participation of any municipality in the County that recognizes the deer problem and realizes that it must be approached at a County level, this program to function independently of any deer management program run by the municipality itself, and to include the South Mountain Reservation.
APPENDIX 1. NEW JERSEY COMMUNITY DEER MANAGEMENT LAW
(Chapter 46, C.23: 4-42.3 et seq.)
From a presentation by Ms. Sue Predl, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, June 8 2006
Under New Jersey law, a municipality, airport or agricultural commission can apply for a permit to reduce a resident deer herd. (Under this law, a park such as South Mountain Reservation cannot qualify for a permit.) When lethal methods are used, the law specifies that the animals may not suffer, and that if possible the meat should be donated to feed the hungry, with the community paying for the cost of butchering. To satisfy this requirement, no chemicals (contraceptives or tranquilizers) can be administered to the animal.
Ms. Predl says that according to law, the permit will be issued only when the community can show that it has satisfied two conditions: that deer/vehicle collisions have occurred, and that significant property damage is reported. Currently, incidence of Lyme disease and destruction of forest understory are not acceptable criteria for issuing a management permit.
There is thought now among wildlife officials that the requirement of approval of culling by lethal means within a radius of 450 feet of an occupied building is excessive, and that this guideline could be adjusted to 150 feet radius around a potential culling site. Legislators are considering making this change.
APPENDIX 2: METHODS OF DEER HERD REDUCTION
Control of deer herds results in improved herd health, reduction in deer damage to vegetation, and stabilized population
Effects of population reduction on home ranges of female white-tailed deer at high densities, 2001 Howard J. Kilpatrick, Shelley M. Spohr, and Kelly K. Lima
Abstract: The relationship between deer density and home range size is important in assessing the effectiveness of deer reduction programs and predicting the effects of deer on habitat. We quantified annual home range and core area size and spatial configuration of adult female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) exposed to a population reduction program and a control group exposed to no population reduction program over a 4-year period (1994–1997). Deer were removed from Bluff Point during a 9-day shotgun hunt in 1996 and a 4-day removal program in 1997. Annual home range size during high deer densities (88–91 deer/km2) were larger than during periods of moderate (20 deer/km2) and low deer densities (11 deer/km2). We found a positive relationship between deer density and home range size. Annual home range size for the control group of deer did not differ among years. There were no significant shifts in the spatial arrangement of deer home ranges as deer densities were reduced.
Significant improvements in deer herd health and reductions in deer browsing
were documented during the 2-year deer reduction program. Population reduction
programs at our study area did not cause the resident deer population to expand
home range size or shift into adjacent habitat. We believe that localized deer
reduction programs can be effective tools to manage problem deer herds. Deer
removal efforts initiated to reduce deer damage to vegetation, particularly in
urban areas, may have an added effect of reducing foraging range of the
remaining resident deer.
Deer reduction does not result in increased fertility of does
An aggressive reduction program carried out in Union County had the objective of bringing a 90 per square mile deer herd to 20 per square mile within 5 years. The program reached its goal in four years and switched to a maintenance program to keep the deer population at the desired level.
An assessment of reproductive data was conducted from 1996 through 1999 by Robert Lund, Supervising Wildlife Biologist of NJ Div. Fish, Game and Wildlife. Each year of the reduction program, the average number of fetuses per doe remained a constant 1.77. (See next page, Summary of Sex/Age Class, Condition and Reproduction Data, Watchung Reservation, Union County)
The Task Force has investigated the principal available methods of reducing the deer herd. Millburn Township's options in using them are limited by the facts and by the law. The methods consist of contraception, sterilization , trapping and transfer, and the various lethal means that are taken up below.
A. NONLETHAL MEANS
1. Reproductive control, including sterilization, contraception, and contragestation, has been proposed as a means to control overabundant deer populations. Reproductive control agents have been demonstrated on individual animals but an efficient, cost-effective means of delivering large-scale population control of deer is not yet available. Difficulty arises in identifying a cost-effective means of treating individual animals. Surgical sterilization is highly effective, but extremely costly, requiring capture and handling of each individual animal. Effective contragestation drugs like prostaglandin are known, but require precise delivery within the gestational cycle of does to allow effective abortion of the fetus. Contraceptive drugs are currently classified as experimental by the FDA and not legal for widespread use in the U.S. Safety concerns about drug impacts on deer meat are also slowing advancement of these drugs. Contraceptive and contragestation drugs carry a per animal cost between $430 and $1000 per animal per treatment with a need to retreat individual animals annually (Peck and Stahl 1997, Schantz et al. 2001).
Reproductive controls can be effective when used on a closed or nearly closed deer population, with little or no ingress. For example, reproductive control may be effective on captive herds or in small, self-contained urban parks generally lacking corridors connecting the park to other potential habitat and deer populations. However, when reproductive control methods are used on deer populations that are already creating overbrowsing problems, they will not be successful without a companion strategy to lower the current deer herd to levels compatible with local ecosystem health. Urban and suburban deer experience extremely low annual mortality rates, increased longevity and high birth rates. An effective reproduction control program would have to be paired with an initial population reduction in order to meet restoration objectives (Nielson et al. 1997).
Experimental programs at Freylinghuysen Arboretum and Geralda Farms in Morristown; also in Princeton have provided disappointing results; the vaccine has been only 80% effective in treated does; the vaccine does not demonstrate the length of utility in the field that has been achieved in trials.
2. "Trap and transfer" is just that: is capture of the animal and its removal to a new site, such as a distant rural forest. This procedure has ceased to be an available option because there is no entity willing and legally permitted to accept animals so transported. Again the stress of handling has been known to kill significant numbers of transported deer.
B. LETHAL MEANS
The lethal means of herd reduction consist of the use of sharpshooters, the organizing of controlled hunting, and for suburban residential areas, tranquilize and euthanize, and trapping and in situ euthanasia. In compliance with state guidelines, the meat of animals so taken is donated to food shelters when practical.
Sharpshooters are professional expert marksmen with credentials who take up positions in trees at baited sites and fire downward with rifles or shotguns to kill assembled deer. To be effective they must be able to get off several shots in quick succession before the assembled deer disperse.
Controlled hunting is carried out by volunteers under guidelines somewhat different from normal hunting procedures that allow for both increased harvesting and heightened public safety. A special case is seasonal bow hunting, permitted on private lands with written approval from neighbors within the prescribed 450’ radius from an occupied building. Bow hunters should only shoot from an elevated tree stand for maximum safety and individuals must show training for hunting safety procedures.
Here are some procedures that have been used or proposed for suburban settings:"POCKET DEER" require methods that do not involve the use of traditional firearms.
"Dart and euthanize" the animal is immobilized by means of a dart that delivers a tranquilizer. After several minutes the tranquilizer takes effect and the deer drops. The animal is picked up and brought to another location and euthanized. This meat is not fit for human consumption and cannot be donated. The animals may be attracted with bait. This method may be employed in a large area, when the deer cannot wander away before the tranquilizer takes effect, and where other methods may not be employed.
In "Trap & Euthanize," also known as "Net & Bolt", a suitably heavy net is spread over an area at a sufficient height, and the area is baited. After deer have become accustomed to feeding there, a time is chosen at which the net is dropped on what animals are there, and these are quickly dispatched using a captive bolt gun. with bolt guns.
In congested areas, "trap & euthanize" is recommended as the safest, most humane way of killing the deer in manner consistent with state directives. This method has been approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association Panel on Euthanasia. State Biologiest Sue Predl has observed the operation and confirms that once the net is dropped, all the animals thus trapped are dispatched within twenty seconds.as are any of its companions. The experts differ on the tranquilization time. Dr. De Nicola of White Buffalo gives a time of 4 to 6 minutes, while biologist Sue Predl says that in practice it often takes as long as 15 minutes, and results in a chase of the animal by the operatives.
APPENDIX 3: HISTORY OF DEER ISSUES MANAGEMENT IN MILLBURN
From the minutes of the DMTF meeting of April 20, 2006.
Ms Mary McNett was introduced as guest to inform the task force regarding past deer control efforts in Millburn & her history follows:
In 1998, in response to resident complaints about deer on private property, Lyme disease which is spread by deer, deer/car accidents & other public safety concerns, Committeewoman Mary McNett volunteered to assemble a sub-committee to recommend a resolution to the overabundance of deer that was causing deer/human conflicts. The sub-committee comprising M. McNett, Chair; the Police Chief, Animal Control Officer, Business Administrator, NJ Fish and Wildlife Biologist, and residents Ed Rummel, Ed Ryan & Steven Oxman studied Wildlife Biology, Community Needs, Public Relations & costs involved in controlling Millburn’s deer population.
Deer had eaten the forest understory up to 6 feet above ground level. The 6 feet browse line is clearly visible in South Mountain Reservation & elsewhere in wooded township land, both public and private. Control of the deer is essential to preserve & regenerate wooded areas & to protect the plant & animal ecology. 20 deer per square mile of forested land is considered sustainable by wildlife biologists, but McNett stated that the Division of Wildlife biologist agreed there should be 0 deer in residential areas.
She stressed the critical importance of a thorough public relations effort to educate the community & press concerning all the research and investigation undertaken by the Committee in order to generate vital support for control proposals & preclude litigious opposition.
NON-LETHAL methods of control were thoroughly investigated and considered. They were Contraception, Trap and Transfer, Strieter Lite reflectors at roadsides, Fencing, a
Deer Paddock in South Mountain Reservation, High-Frequency Sound deterrents, and public education.
Millburn & Essex County approved the non-lethal Trap & Transfer of deer from Old Short Hills Park, the South Mountain Reservation and a trial program on 2 private properties, with NJ Division of Wildlife concurrence, since deer control requires state approval. After two years, trap and transfer could no longer be utilized because other states would not accept deer from outside their borders, fearing Chronic Wasting Disease might be introduced into their herds. Roadside Strieter reflectors were installed on portions of Parsonage Hill and Old Short Hills Road. Evidence is tenuous whether or not they reduce accidents and the reflectors have no effect during daylight hours. The herd continued to increase at the usual rate of 30% annually.
In addition, the sub-committee utilized the reverse side of the annual property tax bill and the Township newsletter to recommend cautious driving and to educate residents about deer resistant landscaping materials, repellant sprays and fencing.
Both Millburn Township and Essex County contracted for annual "hot shot" counts using infrared cameras mounted in either helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft but these counts vary in accuracy. There are also spotlighting drive-by counts called Distance Sampling conducted by Susan Predl, Principal Biologist for NJ Dep’t of Fish & Wildlife.
LETHAL methods considered were bow hunting, sharpshooters and Net & Bolt.
Millburn’s Deer Management Plan included a controlled hunt in the East Orange Water Reserve and Old Short Hills Park. The Sharpshooters program conducted by Deer Management Systems eliminated many deer in the East Orange Water Reserve and in Old Short Hills Park in several culling sessions. But many deer found private property to live on and continued to roam as well from the South Mountain Reservation, Oakey Tract & the East Orange Water Reserve. One square mile is the usual roaming range of deer.
The next lethal method considered was Net and Bolt, which is the most viable current method to eliminate deer from private property, where regulations prohibit the discharge of firearms (bow and arrow is considered a firearm). The animals are attracted to a bait station under a suspended net. When the net is dropped, the contractor quickly comes out and dispatches each animal with a bolt gun. No projectile is released. Anthony DeNicola of White Buffalo Co., who operates a Net & Bolt program, inspected township private properties & found workable areas. Princeton has many deer living on private property & DeNicola has been operating a Net & Bolt program there successfully for several years.
Township Committee approval came too late in 2006 for DeNicola to set up the operation here and no control measures have been utilized for this year. There has also been a question of private versus public payment of DeNicola, & McNett stressed that the township should pay for it since the deer are a township-wide problem, and don’t reside on any one person’s property but roam throughout a neighborhood. Nearby towns have not been willing to undertake a joint deer control effort.
APPENDIX 4: LIFE CYCLE OF THE DEER TICK
Lyme disease is a "vector-borne" disease. A vector-borne disease is a
transmitted to humans by insects (typically mosquitoes,) or arachnids (typically ticks,)
or by animals, which carry human disease-causing bacteria, viruses or
parasites. The vectors generally spread the disease by feeding on the blood of their
animal and human "hosts". Examples of vector-borne diseases are malaria (mosquito
vector), plague (rat flea vector), Lyme disease (tick vector) and rabies (raccoon or
Borrelia burgdorferi, the "spirochete" (a form of bacterium) that causes Lyme disease,
is transmitted by the black-legged (or deer) tick, Ixodes scapularis. Like all tick
species, deer ticks have a two-year life cycle, and require a blood meal from their
host to progress to each successive stage in their life cycles. Ticks can be classified
on the basis of life cycle as one-, two-, or three-host ticks. Tick species found in the
United States are generally one- or three-host ticks. Three-host ticks
feed, drop off,
and reattach later to progressively larger hosts. Deer ticks are three-host ticks.
The life cycle of the deer tick comprises three growth stages: the larva, nymph and
adult. In each stage, the tick infests a different host.
Larval stage - Tick eggs hatch into larvae in the spring. The host is a small mammal
or bird. Larvae cannot transmit Lyme disease to animal or human hosts.
Nymphal stage - although the nymphs' preferred hosts are small mammals (such as
white-footed mice, chipmunks and squirrels) and birds, humans and their pets are
suitable substitutes. Because nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed, they often
go unnoticed until fully engorged, and are therefore responsible for nearly all of
human Lyme disease cases.
Adult ticks actively seek new hosts throughout the fall, waiting up to 3 feet
above the ground on stalks of grass or leaf tips to latch onto white-tailed deer
(the preferred host) or other larger mammals (including humans, dogs, cats, horses,
and other domestic animals). Adult ticks bear their eggs while on the winter host.
The eggs drop off the deer and turn to larvae the first spring and summer. A single
white-tailed deer can host enough adult ticks and provide enough blood to produce
1.5 to 3 million eggs and larvae the following spring,
Few cases of Lyme disease are acquired from adult tick bites because they are
Relatively large (about the size of a seed, and attached ticks are
found and removed before spirochete transmission occurs (more than 36 hrs).
Source material on tick and deer reduction studies:
Connecticut Department of Public Health and Dr Kirby Stafford: Tick Management Handbook 2004: CT community based Lyme disease prevention projects. Funded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and by the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station. Available at http://www.caes.state.ct.us/
Sam Telford 2002 Conservation Medicine: Aguirre, Ostfeld eds: Ecological Health in Practice, pp310-324; Oxford University Press. Deer reduction studies on Great Island, Cape Cod, MA and effects on Lyme incidence.
Anderson, JF, Johnson, Magnarelli et al 1987. Prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi and Babesia microti in mice on islands inhabited by white-tailed deer. Appl Env Microbiol 53:892-894
http://www.fao.org/wairdocs/ilri/x5441e/x5441e05.htm#host density and tick dynamics: the case of the vector of Lyme disease
Daniels TJ, Fish D and Schwartz I 1993. Reduced abundance of Ixodes scapularis and Lyme disease risk by deer exclusion. J Med Entomology 30: 1043-1049
Telford SR 1993. Forum: Deer tick transmitted zoonoses in the eastern United States. In Ginsberg ed. Ecology and Environmental Management of Lyme Disease. pp 310-324 Rutgers University Press.
Telford SR 1993. Forum: perspectives on the environmental management…In Ginsberg ed. Ecology and Environmental Management of Lyme Disease. pp164-167 Rutgers University Press
Wilson ML, Telford SR lll 1988. Reduced abundance of immature Ixodes dammini ticks following elimination of deer. J Med Entomology 1988;25:224-8
Wilson and Deblinger. Vector management to reduce the risk of Lyme disease. In Ginsberg ed. Ecology and Environmental Management of Lyme Disease. pp126-156 Rutgers University Press
Hayes EB and Piesman J 2003. How Can We Prevent Lyme Disease? New England J Med. 348;24 2424-2430
Piesman et al 1979. J Med Entomology 15:537-540 Role of deer in the epizootology…
Peter Rand, Charles Lubelczyk and Robert Smith. 2003 Deer Density and the Abundance of Ixodes scapularis ticks. Journal of Medical Entomology Vol 40 pp179-184 Lyme Disease Research Laboratory, Maine Medical Center Research Institute.
Peter Rand and Robert Smith. 2004 Monhegan Island study. Journal of Medical Entomology Vol 41 pp779-784 Maine Medical Center Research Institute, Vector-Borne Disease Laboratory
Kirby Stafford CT Agriculture Experiment Station, New Haven Frontiers of Plant Science: Special Issue Vol 53 Number 2 Spring 2001: An Increasing Deer Population is Linked to the Rising Incidence of Lyme Disease.
Managing Urban Deer in Connecticut: A guide for residents and communities concerned about overabundant deer populations. Ct Dept of Env Protection. Howard Kilpatrick and Andrew LaBonte 2002 (New Edition pending)
Community-based deer management: 2004 Decker, Raik, Siemer. Cornell University Outreach Cooperative, NY. For sale online: http://www.cornell.edu/
ADDENDUM D: BIBLIOGRAPHY
Strategies for Addressing Deer Vehicle Crashes (DVC), Wisc. Dept Transportation 2004
DVC Countermeasure Toolbox, University of Wisconsin June 2004
North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, March 2005
Forest Health White Paper, NJ Audubon Society 2006
Deer Management Program for Watchung Reservation, 1999
New Jersey Community Deer Management Law (Chapter 46, C.23: 4-42.3 et seq.)
Deer Hunting in a Residential Community; Kilpatrick and LaBonte, 2003
South Mountain Reservation Assessment and Restoration Management Plan, PPE, June 2006
Animals vs. Motor Vehicle Accident Data, Township of Millburn 2005
CDRSS Reportable Disease, Totals by Municipality 2003 - 2005
|Back to SMC home page|