WESTFIELD, NJ — When local public works employees rescued a fawn stuck in a storm drain in May, deer became a celebrated cause here. On Tuesday, the public viewed deer in a different light as the Town Council delayed a plan for participating in a Union County hunt that if approved would happen in Brightwood Park (near the Scotch Plains border), the Conservation Center and wooded areas near Delaware Street, Maryland Ave. and Grandview Ave.
“It’s a prudent process that we delay because some good information came out that we just learned about,” said Councilman David Contract, who chairs the Council’s public works committee tasked with finding a fix for the town’s overpopulation of deer.
Contract said that 49 deer were injured in vehicular crashes in the town and, cars likely hit an equal number of deer, which survived the crashes.
“The driving force for us to consider this is the safety of our residents and really the safety of our residents in cars,” Contract said. “About 100 deer have been hit in the past year.”
But it was that very concern for safety that prompted the council to delay approval of the town’s participation in the county-wide hunt until it’s next council session, which is set for Dec. 10.
Delaware Street resident Kristy Trapani was among residents to object to the hunting in an 8-acre tract of land just off of her street. She is worried about safety.
“My concern is what happens when a deer hit runs to a place where it’s comfortable, which is probably going to be my backyard,” Trapani told the council. “One sat and watched me mow my lawn for 30 minutes last summer.”
Trapani recognized that an influx of deer in her neighborhood have caused concerns, but wanted to know how the trails into the wooded area would be blocked off during the hunts.
Highland Avenue resident Terrence O’Connor, who has participated in Union County’s bow hunts and shotgun hunts, said that a deer when struck by a bow may run 20 to 30 yards before succumbing to its wounds. O’Connor said that not every deer is initially hit with a fatal wound.
“Mistakes are going to happen with a program like this,” said O’Connor, an experienced hunter. “With an 8-acre parcel some deer is going to run into somebody’s yard.”
Darielle Walsh presented a photo array to the council showing dozens of deer in her neighborhood.
“My concern is public safety because as you’ll see in one of these photographs, they station themselves in the middle of the road,” Walsh said.
While deer hunting is new to Westfield, Union County has for years held hunts on county owned lands. Last year, the county expanded its hunting season through the use of certified volunteer bow hunters.
In July, the Union County Freeholders again approved hunts in seven parks throughout Union County. The cost of administrating that program was then estimated at $20,815.
While some members of the public argued that other methods of deer population control should be considered, Councilman Dawn Mackey said she had investigated such.
Mackey said she had had spoken to the owner of a company in that had attempted deer sterilization in Staten Island.
“The owner of the company said that, sadly, it ultimately was a failure,” Mackey said.
While the council is not anticipated to decide on the proposal until its next meeting, Town Administrator Jim Gildea warned that even then, the council may not have all the answers it seeks.
“In two weeks there may be some new information, but don’t expect to have everything, and the question will come back to you in two weeks: What are you comfortable doing?”
The Westfield Council will consider a resolution for the deer hunt program at its meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10. The council first meets at 7 p.m. for a workshop session in the council conference room at the Municipal Building, 425 East Broad St. It will meet for its more formal meeting at 8 p.m. in the council chambers.