River Vale Council To Decide On Deer Control

Deer overpopulation caused a spike in local motor vehicle accidents in 2018, River Vale officials have said. | NJDEP photo


RIVER VALE, N.J.—Township officials said a decision on how to address an increasing deer population is likely within months after an appeal by two area activists to adopt non-lethal methods at the March 25 Township Council meeting.

“We haven’t had our discussion…and at some point in the near future we will be considering it, discussing it and coming up with a solution,” said Council President Mark Bromberg.

He said all council members are taking information from previous presentations made to the council by experts on lethal and non-lethal options “under advisement” and will come up with a decision soon.

Mayor Glen Jasionowski said no more experts would present.

“We’ve done everything we feel we need to do and sometime in the very near future…I’d say in the next few months we’ll have a public discussion about it and make a decision,” the mayor said.

Mark Nagelhout, a Park Ridge resident, offered council members assistance to promote and implement non-lethal methods to manage deer populations.

“We’re here to help, we’re not just here to talk and complain,” said Mark Nagelhout, a Park Ridge resident and member of Animal Protection League of New Jersey, which advocates for non-lethal approaches to deer population control.

Nagelhout has appeared at previous meetings to advocate for non-lethal deer control methods. He said the League works on non-lethal strategies

He said the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, which provided a presentation of non-lethal strategies to council members in January, can offer assistance before any future decision is made.

“We want to do more, we want to help,” said Nagelhout, who said he and his wife, Kim, can offer educational presentations on non-lethal deer methods and management strategies.

He said the state previously rejected a proposed non-lethal plan from Saddle River before it later adopted a controlled bow hunt during the state regulated hunting season.

He urged local officials “to push the state to approve and accept non-lethal sterilization practices. Right now it’s a brick wall,” he said.

“They [the state Fish and Game Council] said no because they’re basically a group of pro-hunting individuals and that’s biased and that’s not fair,” said Nagelhout.

He said the non-lethal advocacy group was pushing other towns to lobby state regulators to allow more non-lethal methods.

Previously in January, Doris Lin, the League’s director of legal and government affairs, urged the council to lobby the state Fish and Game Council to include surgical sterilization as an approved non-lethal method.

She suggested that should the state fail to adopt the strategy, River Vale should sue the state. Township attorney Silvana Raso saw no basis for such a suit.

Nagelhout told council that several Saddle RIver police reports tell of deer wounded during its recent hunt, which police were not able to find, and which ran off onto private properties.

‘Inhumane, unacceptable’

“It’s pretty inhumane and unacceptable to me that our state Fish and Wildlife is promoting things like this in our neighborhoods,” added Nagelhout.

Bromberg said he had received an email from Nagelhout with the police reports he cited and thanked him.

During Saddle River’s most recent fall and winter deer hunt, professional bow hunters killed 135 deer over about four months.

As Nagelhout mentioned, prior to requesting state permission to hold a regulated bow hunt, Saddle River had submitted a plan to implement a surgical sterilization program but the state Fish and Game Council rejected the plan noting sterilization as an unproven control method in an “open” or free-range deer population.

The Animal Protection League recommends surgical sterilization, or ovariectomies, as a proven non-lethal method, although state Fish and Game Council does not list them as an accepted non-lethal approach. Only trap-and-transfer and chemical sterilization are listed by the state as non-lethal options.

Ovariectomies, which involve removal of a female deer’s ovaries, are estimated to cost $1,000 to $1,200 per deer, League officials said previously. Private donations had been lined up to fund the Saddle River non-lethal plan before it was rejected, said officials.

While Saddle River’s regulated bow hunting program asked interested homeowners to allow or restrict bow hunters access to their property, both for hunting and retrieving a wounded deer, Jasionwoski previously said should River Vale eventually decide on a bowhunting program, no homeowners’ properties would be used. He said only certain golf courses would be used.

Jasionowski said in January that the township had seen a dramatic increase in deer-vehicle incidents during the non-mating season, as well as does giving birth to two or three offspring.

Lin attributed this to the area’s abundant landscaping which offers food sources for deer.

During January’s presentation, Lin noted only one New Jersey municipality—Princeton—that implemented a non-lethal deer management program approved by state officials. She said it was successful but the state ended it.

Following the Jan. 28 council presentation by Lin, the issue was not discussed publicly and not listed on the March 25 agenda.

Originally, Jasionowski raised the deer issue at a mayor’s forum in fall 2018 and said he had concluded that River Vale needed a controlled hunt to control an increasing deer population.

He said then that auto incidents had risen from 2-4 yearly to almost 50 in the last year, and said he feared a fatality related to a deer-vehicle accident.

Since fall 2018, council has heard from two biologists in the state Division of FIsh and Wildlife and the Animal Protection League of New Jersey offering details on lethal and non-lethal deer population controls.

Regional approach

In related news, an Englewood deer task force hoping to address the deer population increase regionally is seeking local representatives from other Bergen County towns.

An Englewood deer population survey conducted in early 2018 confirmed significant growth over the last decade. The task force is hoping to prepare a regional deer management plan, said task force chair Lisa Wisotsky.

A regional symposium on deer management, held by the group Dec. 6, 2018, is posted at bit.ly/englewooddeer18.

While many town officials admit deer population and deer accidents/incidents increasing, only Saddle River has initiated a regulated bow hunt to reduce deer numbers.