Allow municipalities the opportunity to implement non-lethal deer management options.

Assembly Bills A4182 and A4183 were discussed at the Assembly Agriculture Committee meeting Monday, June 13th. They do two main things: They allow the use of bait for the purposes of hunting to attract, entice, or lure deer. And they suggest that to control the deer population, the only way is to expand hunting rights and kill the animal. This is not only wrong. It’s inhumane. And in many cases it’s also counterproductive.

The Lesniak Institute, alongside animal welfare groups that testified, suggested an amendment to allow municipalities the opportunity to implement non-lethal options in addition to the existing management options.

We prefer a free standing bill which will be introduced by Senators Zwicker and Gopal to accomplish it.

Senator Lesniak stated: Non-lethal means of deer management by surgical sterilization, otherwise known as spaying, of female deer has significantly reduced local deer populations in Virginia, California, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Maryland, but has been made impossible in New Jersey by an administrative requirement of the Fish and Wildlife Council that requires written prior consent from property owners within 2000 feet of any sedation darting of deer that is being conducted on public property, an impossible requirement. 

The justification for this requirement is that a sedated deer can run 2000 feet onto private property after being darted before collapsing, but it is unduly burdensome and effectively prevents non-lethal deer management.

As is done in other states, law enforcement or an animal control officer will ring the doorbell to notify a property owner that they will be entering their property to remove the sedated deer to be taken to a location for sterilization. This is no different from current law enforcement or animal control officer’s authority.

To accomplishments non lethal means I propose an amendment to N.J.S.A. 23:4-42.4 Submission of deer management plan which would state “ Effected property does not include property where a deer darted for sterilization is needed to be removed by law enforcement or an animal control officer or their agent.”

There were other Deer Management testimonies with varying solutions to address overpopulation.

Let us be clear.

At the Lesniak Institute we do not oppose all deer hunting, rather we urge all forms of deer management be considered and those most effective be utilized.

Brian Hackett, Legislative Affairs Manager at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, stated he is pro deer fencing in an effort to protect farmers’ crops and, too, is not anti- hunting. Hackett pointed out how 50 years of just hunting alone has not fixed the overpopulation issue and furthermore urged the committee to allow for non-lethal means to be added to the growing deer population management options.

The Humane Society of The United States conducted a study on Fripp Island, S.C. A location in which deer fertility management has been the most successful. The study found “over a five-year period, the deer population decreased by nearly 60 percent. In addition, residents of Fripp Island are very pleased by the results, happy to see that the remaining deer population on the island is healthier and causing fewer conflicts.”

The proposed amendment would allow trained professionals along with a local law enforcement or animal control officer to remove a deer that came to rest on private property and relocate it for sterilization. Sterilization is a non-lethal long term step at reducing the deer population since female deer would be unable to reproduce.

We at The Lesniak Institute believe good public policy includes humane treatment of animals and adopting the most effective means of deer management. Our proposed amendment will accomplish both objectives.

About The Author: Brittany Macaluso is the policy and advocacy coordinator at the Lesniak Institute and a recent MSW graduate from Columbia University School of Social Work