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Township Introduces Bow-Hunting Ordinance

Liane Yvkoff

Princeton Township Committee voted 5-0 Monday night to introduce an ordinance that will permit bow hunting as one of the methods used in the Township's overall strategy to reduce the deer population to a manageable level.

The ordinance is in response to a condition established last year by the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), which would not approve a community-based deer management plan that did not include bow hunting as one of the methods to cull the deer population.

The New Jersey Fish and Game Council argued that the Township was infringing on the rights of hunters by contracting with a professional organization, such as White Buffalo, before permitting hunters the opportunity to control the deer population through traditional hunting. The DFW and Fish and Game Council indicated that the Township should rely on bow hunting as the primary means of controlling its deer population before turning to a professional organization for alternative means of suppressing the deer.

The DFW initially denied the Township's 2002-2003 application for a deer management permit, and then later approved it when the Township submitted a revised application that committed itself to increasing opportunities for traditional hunting in the Township.

To satisfy this commitment, this year the Township will permit a limited number of bow hunters during bow-hunting season in four parks and reservations the DFW identified as being able to support a limited number of bow hunters. The proposed properties are Woodfield Reservation, which will permit five bow hunters; Autumn Hill Reservation, five bow hunters; Fieldwood, one bow hunter; and Stony Brook tract at Puritan Court, three bow hunters. The bow-hunting season lasts for six to seven days during December and January, and varies year to year.

Princeton Township is in the fourth year of its five-year deer management plan, which aims to reduce the current deer population from 610 to 350, or 20 over-wintering deer per acre.

In its first year, the Township entered into a contract with wildlife management firm White Buffalo to cull the deer by sharpshooting and euthanasia. In high housing density areas, deer are captured under a drop net and culled by a captive bolt gun, a method which some Township residents and animal-rights groups feel is inhumane. In 2002-2003, White Buffalo and Princeton Township added a non-lethal method to the deer management plan when it embarked on an experimental project with Rutgers University and the Humane Society to implement birth control in female deer.

Princeton Township will continue with its birth control study during the 2003-2004 season.

Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand suggested that the Committee was reluctant to encourage hunting, but later commented that the ordinance ultimately will be beneficial to the Township because it will help reduce the deer population at no additional cost.

Princeton Township will contract with a hunting group such as the United Bowhunters of New Jersey to conduct the hunting. Contracting with such an organization will alleviate the need to make large changes to the municipal code and ensure hunting is conducted safely. The service agreement will be similar to the contract with White Buffalo, except hunting will be by permit only, property specific, and by traditional methods only. Hunting permits will be issued on a first-come, first-serve basis and be park-specific. Permits can not be transferred from one hunter to another.

All hunting will be conducted from10-foot-high platforms inspected and approved by the Township Police Department. Once constructed, platforms cannot be moved.

The ordinance includes two changes to the municipal code to authorize deer hunting for deer-management purposes. Once passed, the ordinance will permit the Township to contract with any group to conduct the bow-hunting portion of the deer management plan and will retain the right to set all applicable safety and eligibility requirements, define hunting methods, and designate eligible parks. The ordinance also prohibits White Buffalo from operating on any private land known to be hunted and on public land designated for bow hunting during hunting season.

Public Hearing

A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for September 22.

The introduction of this ordinance enabled the Township to vote 5-0 to file its deer management application with the DFW, which will enable it to continue with all aspects of the plan, lethal and non-lethal, with the addition of bow hunting. The DFW will vote on the Township's application later this year.

In other business, Princeton Township Committee voted 5-0 to sign an interlocal services agreement with the Princeton Borough, adding the Township's name on the deed of approximately 171 acres of Princeton Sewer Operating Committee property on River Road.

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