PLAINFIELD, NJ — Much to the surprise of some residents, a resolution to authorize the implementation of a deer management program that will reduce the town’s burgeoning deer population appeared on Plainfield's City Council agenda this month. A robocall Monday morning also informed residents that the council would vote on the issue, with one resident saying the spin of the call made her think a potential deer kill is a done deal.
Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said, "We all know that the deer problem is out of hand and out of control, and often times we hear the voices of three to five animal rights activists who always seek to elevate the rights of the animals above that of our residents and property owners. And I found it necessary to provide residents who call my office, who speak to me personally and to other council members, pleading to us to do something about the deer problem. So yes, I had the robocall go out to our residents so that their voices can be heard."
Results from a 2018 Union County deer control program in the Cushing Road Retention Basin showed hunters took six does, three “button bucks,” and one 9-point antlered male in one month. Later that year, then Council President Charles McRae said there were no future plans for another deer kill.
In 2019, Shep Brown, Director of Health and Social Services, said both the mayor and the administration did not support any killing and hunting of deer at the Sept. 9 council meeting. His department, Brown said, planned to develop a public education and outreach plan for residents to address issues like Lyme disease, and to reduce environmental factors that might attract deer.
But Monday, Councilman Sean McKenna said none of this had been done — there was no report, no study on feeding areas — and taking this action pits neighbor against neighbor.
Councilwoman Ashley Davis said she hopes the energy for discussion can continue when attempts to tackle other issues like food insecurity, violence in the city, and the disproportionate rates to which COVID-19 is affecting members of the community are made. "The deer problem is not a problem that is singular to one ward or one section of the city; as we've seen tonight it's across all four wards."
Resolution 262-20 was amended to include only a winter hunt; it will run January 2 to February 15, 2021. The deer kill resolution passed 6-1, with McKenna casting the lone 'no' vote.
Mayor Mapp said he plans to have a conversation with Union County officials about expanding the area of the cull.
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