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Deer Cull Enters Fifth and Final Year

Matthew Hersh

Princeton Township Committee gave the nod Monday night to a fifth and final year for the Township's deer culling program. At the same time, the Committee authorized two other contractors to employ various methods to project an inventory of the Township's deer population.

In total, the Township appropriated over $90,000 for the deer management program for the 2004-2005 season ‹ the final year in a five-year contract with White Buffalo, the Connecticut-based firm hired to implement the Township's program.

The monetary appropriation also marks the third year of the Township's pilot fertility control study project. According to the agreement with White Buffalo, the contractor is allowed to remove deer as needed outside the fertility control area, which lies in the southeastern section of the Township ‹ specifically a two-square-mile area bound by Lake Carnegie to the east and south, Harrison Street to the west, Dodds Lane, and Terhune and Van Dyke roads to the north. According to Township officials, about 100 doe have been treated under the contraception program.

The Township is nearing the goals set forth when the contract with White Buffalo was first implemented in the winter of 2000-2001; the agreement for the fifth year allows the Township to terminate the contract at any time if those goals are reached before the year is up.

The original five-year goal of the Township was to bring the deer population down to 350, or approximately 20 deer per square mile as described by the Township in its target density. In August, the Township's Deer Program Evaluation Committee recommended taking a town-wide count late this month and another in May, saying that if the herds in specific target areas are less than 130, the Township should rely only on sport hunting and road kills, and need no longer employ White -Buffalo. The deer committee also recommended that White Buffalo should be employed only if the deer count is more than 190.

In light of that recommendation, Committee unanimously approved $17,500 for Davis Aviation Services to employ an infrared radar system to inventory the deer herd, and $3,500 to Frank Verret of Binghamton, NY, to conduct a count for the purposes of projecting the deer herd size after White Buffalo's services have been rendered.

To date, White Buffalo has killed 1,181 deer by way of sharpshooters, captive-bolt guns, and drop nets as methods of capture-and-kill.

The Township program's detractors have called the methods employed cruel, but proponents have cited data showing fewer deer-related vehicular accidents and a re-growth of the forest floor as reason to continue the management program.

The decline in accidents, however, may not be enough for the Deer Program Evaluation Committee. After a report was submitted to Township Committee in August saying that the 128 accidents in 2003 and the 52 accidents in 2004 were more than twice than what they "should" be, the deer committee proposed that the Township reduce its dependence on paid shooters and rely more heavily on a combination of road kills and sport hunter harvests. Township Committee has repeatedly expressed disappointment in the United Bowhunters of New Jersey for yielding a low deer cull this past season. However, the New Jersey Fish and Game Council requires a bow-hunting element be included in municipalities' deer management programs.

Bowhunters are brought in to treat four areas in the Township: Woodfield Reservation; Autumn Hill Reservation; Fieldwood; and Stony Brook at Puritan Court.

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