Princeton Township Animal Control Committee: Bring Back Deer Sharpshooters

A committee has suggested that Princeton Township bring back a controversial sharpshooters program to thin the deer population this coming winter.

The township depended on a sports hunting program to thin the population for the past year, but it wasn’t successful, said Dona Schneider, a member of the township animal control committee.

“Other culling measures had us where we wanted to be, but with the sports hunting alone, we had very unfortunate results,” Schneider said. “It only took out about half the deer that had to be taken out.”

Ideally the township wants the deer population to be reduced to 20 deer per square mile or less, Schneider told the township committee Monday night. Depending on only the United Bowhunters to thin the population, the township picked up or put down an additional 71 deer this past year that were either road kill or injured deer. Schneider said some of the deer have epizootic hemorrhagic disease, an an acute, infectious, often fatal zoological viral disease that does not affect humans.

She recommended that the township consider bringing back the sharpshooting company White Buffalo, which is based in Connecticut.

“Above and beyond that we can’t use contraceptive efforts,” she said. “The state has too many barriers to that.”

Bringing White Buffalo back for 2012 would cost about $63,000. Hunting season began a week ago, officials said, and deer will be hunted with bows until then.

“White Buffalo would come in after February to really make a difference,” Schneider said. “They will have properties set up where they can net and bolt, and not interfere with with people using parks or bow hunting.”

White Buffalo would hunt starting a half hour before dark, for about 2-3 hours, and police would be posted in the areas where they hunt for extra security, officials said.

Deer carcasses will be sent to a contractor who will butcher the deer and give the meet to the NORWESCAP food Bank, which runs two soup kitchens in Hunterdon and Warren counties. Animal Control Officer Mark Johnson said the township must switch to a new, more expensive contractor this year because the old one is no longer in service.

White Buffalo was first hired to reduce the local deer population in 2000. The township deer-management program is intended to ease several problems officials have attributed at least in part to an abundance of deer, including traffic accidents, damage to wooded underbrush and residents’ gardens and the threat of the tick-borne Lyme disease.

Animal rights advocates have decried the program, calling its methods extreme and inhumane. With the net-and-bolt method, deer are trapped in nets and shot in the head at point-blank range with a bolt gun. Opponents demonstrated and tried to stop the program through court fights.

The net-and-bolt method is used instead of sharpshooting in parts of the township where development is too dense to meet the state’s minimum safety standards for hunting or sharpshooting.

“Bow hunting has not achieved the goals we wanted to achieve,” Township Committeeman Bernie Miller said. “The number of deer increased to twice the target we had. The one-year experiment we tried was not successful. If we are going to maintain the size of the herd to less than 20 deer per square mile, once again we will need to use professional hunters.”