The plan for bow hunting goes to the council for approval Tuesday night.
WESTFIELD, NJ — One day before the Town Council’s anticipated approval of participation in a deer hunt, town officials issued a Q&A on the decision to participate in the bow hunt spearheaded by Union County.
The officials explain that the program is intended to prevent overcrowding, something that if not addressed would continue to worsen as the deer population doubles every two years. Mayor Shelley Brindle said she had received multiple inquiries from residents about the hunt.
“This is not an easy decision to contemplate,” Brindle in a statement. “We would not consider participating in this program if we thought there was any danger to residents. The FAQ outlines what precautions are being taken by Union County, which has vast experience in implementing this program, to ensure resident safety.”
Councilman David Contract, in whose ward deer hunts are anticipated, said expansion of the county hunt is in response to resident complaints not only about deer eating plants and shrubbery but also causing traffic accidents and spreading Lyme disease. Citing figures from the county, Contract said that since January 2018, 49 dead deer have been picked up from roadways in Westfield, and county officials believe a similar number of deer were injured in vehicular crashes.
“For every dead deer we removed from the streets, another deer was hit by a car and lived,” Contract said.
Here are some things to know, according to the Town of Westfield’s FAQ:
1) Pedestrian and vehicular safety: Deer overpopulation leads to too many deer on our streets as they forage for food which is a major safety issue. Since Jan. 2018, there have been approximately 100 accidents in which deer have been struck by cars including 49 deer fatalities. Additionally, deer roaming around have gotten stuck in storm drains, batting cages in town parks and fences, which can cause injuries to the deer and require town resources to address.
2) Lyme disease exposure: A typical adult deer is estimated to carry 100+ Lyme disease-carrying ticks, which they drop as they move around.
3) Landscape destruction: Deer herds oftentimes congregate on residential properties, eating plants and shrubs and depositing excrement. They also cross roads in packs, which contributes to traffic congestion and contributes to pedestrian and vehicular safety issues.
4) Cost: All costs for feed corn and deer butchering will be paid by Union County. All hunting permits and equipment costs will be paid by the archers. In July, the Union County Freeholders had approved hunts in seven parks throughout Union County. The county-wide cost of administrating that program was then estimated at $20,815.
5) Timing: The hunt takes place Jan. 1 – Feb. 14 and occurs typically two mornings or afternoons a week between Monday-Friday.
Suburban Wildlife: What do I do if I Find a Dead or Injured Deer in Westfield?
6) Who are the archers? The archers for the deer management program are volunteers, qualified for accuracy in the use of crossbows and vetted for criminal as well as fish and game violations. The archers will follow all Union County and State of New Jersey Fish and Wildlife regulations, guidelines and bag limits. It’s highly likely that the archers will be Westfield residents.
7) How does the archery process work? The archers will use portable tree stands, at a minimum height of 12 feet, to ensure any crossbow arrows fired will burrow safely into the ground. All activity will take place over baited areas from elevated tree stands. These areas will be chosen to provide a safe area for deer management and to avoid human interaction and conflict. The archers in the Union County program will operate typically 300 feet or further away from any residential property, even though the state law only requires 150 feet.
8) Will residents see or hear anything? No. The program is designed to be invisible to residents. The archers are situated 300 feet or more away from residential properties, crossbows are quiet, the culled deer are carried out on sleds and nothing is left behind after the archers finish every day.
9) What happens to the harvested deer? The harvested deer may be kept by the hunters for personal consumption or donated for distribution through the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. Union County has provided thousands of meals as a result of the Union County Deer Management Program.
10) What other municipalities are participating in the hunt? Municipalities that are part of the Union County Deer Management Program include: Berkeley Heights, Clark, Cranford, Hillside, Kenilworth, Linden, Mountainside, New Providence, Scotch Plains, Springfield, Summit, Union, and Union County’s Lenape Park on the border of Westfield.
11) What’s the best way to voice my opinion on the topic? The Town Council will consider a resolution for the deer hunt program at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 26. 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. Members of the public will be given the opportunity to speak at both sessions.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh
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