PATERSON, NJ - Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, reports worldwide have displayed animals freely ranging in areas unfamiliar to them, including urban centers. A video of wild goats taking over deserted streets of a Welsh town due to residents taking shelter has been widely circulated on social media. Wild boars have been witnessed traversing through cities in Spain, Turkey, and Israel.
Paterson is no exception to the international invasion.
Passersby were stunned Tuesday morning to spot a group of deer leisurely sauntering from yard to yard in the city’s Hillcrest section. Chomping on evergreen bushes, plants, and more, while grazing in neatly trimmed grass, the small herd moved from house to house oblivious to the occasional passing car.
The group of large bovines was last seen on Lexington Avenue between Chamberlain and Crosby Streets. The early morning quartet managed to beat sanitation workers to the punch as garbage trucks patrolled the streets a little before 8 a.m., nearly an hour later.
According to John DeCando, the city’s Chief Animal Control Officer, one explanation for the increased presence of the fleet-footed herbivores is that they are “on temporary loan” from the nearby, beautiful Garrett Mountain, the 568-acre reservation which many refer to as the hidden gem of Passaic County. Having rescued a plethora of animals over the years, including at least one boa constrictor and a cow that halted traffic for hours by escaping on Interstate 80, the protection of deer may be somewhat less sensational but is of equal importance to the mammal and carnivore expert.
“Since the outbreak of the coronavirus there has been less traffic on the roads,” Candiando explained. “The deer population has been coming down more from Garret Mountain. They pass Valley Road and Route 19 to areas around Marshall Avenue in South Paterson and around 21st Avenue.”
DeCando said that deer commonly travel along rivers and railroad tracks.
“Deers have an exceptional sense of hearing,” the 43-year veteran of animal control stated. “They actually walk along railroad tracks and use them for a sense of direction. They can hear a train coming from far away.”
Hillcrest is not the only Silk City neighborhood in which deer are popping up, according to DeCando.
“Last night (Monday) there was a sighting on Van Houten Street by Passaic Community College,” DeCando related. “By the time we got there, the deer had already run off. There were also a couple of deer seen at Eastside Park a few days ago.”
DeCando also said that during his over four decades of public service in wild game oversight there have been six or seven rescues of deer that became trapped under the Great Falls. He said that there are important protocols to follow whether deer are encountered in an urban or wooded setting.
“Whenever someone sees deer in the community it is best to leave them alone,” DeCando cautioned. “If they get spooked they can run away quickly and could get hit by a car.”
DeCando said that he and his crew are sometimes alerted to an abandoned baby fawn.
“We take them to The Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital for care,” DeCando said. “However, never approach or touch a baby fawn. If the mother sees someone do this, she may attack to protect her young.”
DeCando said injured deer may be safely captured through use of tranquilization and then nursed back to health and returned to the wild.
While The Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park was recently opened after being closed for several months due to the worldwide contagion, Superintendent Darren Boch said that he had not heard of any unusual animal appearances during the lockdown.
Little did Patersonians realize that since The Friends of Distinction recorded their smash hit, Grazing in the Grass, in 1968, over 50 years ago, the iconic tune would prove to be literally prophetic in their city.