The white-tailed deer is a persecuted species, harassed and killed throughout most of New Jersey. By definition, what is occurring is a massacre. The situation is so bad, and so unacceptable, that many people say the sight of a white-tail family saddens them, because they know the animals will perish by razor-tipped arrow or shotgun. This, when poll after poll demonstrates that the pubic prefers nonlethal mitigation.
Tied to an agency captive to the industries it is supposed to regulate, New Jersey’s mismanagement of its deer has failed the non-hunting public. “Community” hunts, some approaching their fourth decade, are technical failures that result in resurgent deer, often rising auto collisions, increased effort and expense to kill fewer deer, significant taxpayer expense — and perpetual hunts. When forest regeneration fails to materialize, the stock response is to claim “success” and kill more deer – with the same results.
The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife personnel blame deer for everything and schmooze officials in hopes of gaining backyard access for fellow hunters and clients. Let us in, they say, we’ll fix it. (“What to do about deer in New Jersey?” (northjersey.com, Feb 4).
Part of the schtick entails knocking down issues we don’t raise (trap and transfer) and ignoring the ones we do (the division’s habitat management and baiting). Another is the “Lyme disease” canard.
Disease ecologists have long absolved deer of any significant role in the transmission of Lyme disease. The Cary Institute’s Tick Project (partners include the Centers for Disease Control) says that deer have gotten “a false rap.” Meantime, Harvard’s School of Public Health warns that “killing deer is not the answer.” The Yale School of Public Health reports that the rate of human infection was not significantly different before and after deer hunts. After deer kills, said Harvard, Lyme infections “went up.”
White-footed mice and abundant acorn crops, not deer, are the cause of recent spikes in infection. The humble opossum, says the Tick Project, is an “unsung hero” in the battle against Lyme, hoovering up to 5,000 ticks per week. In International studies, foxes and other small predators whose mere presence reduces mouse density break the cycle of infection. Hunting and forest fragmentation contribute to the dwindling of small mammal predators, say researchers. The state’s ignorant and antiquated policy promotes fur trapping of both beneficial animals. The skin of the unsung hero, the opossum, fetches all of “$2.”
Farming and Breeding Deer
Baiting, banned in New York and Pennsylvania and encouraged in New Jersey, increases deer density, reproduction, and conflict. The division’s logging and management for “small game” creates deer breeding habitat and more deer.
Blaming the Victim
The conservation vogue of scapegoating deer, of applying glib generalities and “potential” damage to all situations, has earned smack downs from world-class authorities. Yale University studies (2010) determined that deer density was not a leading factor in determining variation in vegetation impacts in Connecticut: “The empirical basis for presumptions that white-tailed deer cause forest regeneration failure is limited.”
Oswald Schmitz, Ph.D., the forest ecologist and director of Yale University’s Institute for Biospheric Studies, refuted a claimed need to kill deer in Rock Creek Park, Maryland. Adverse effects were “patently overstated,” wrote Schmitz. “The study shows the opposite, that deer eat tree seedlings in the Park, but that this particular reduction in the number of tree seedlings has no measurable effect on forest regeneration.”
If, far less frequently than presumed, reduction is necessary, fertility control can humanely reduce the herd in 5 years or sooner in appropriate situations.
Nonlethal Methodologies are Available
The Washington Post reports that non-lethal is catching on.San Jose saw a 40 percent drop in black-tailed deer within two years and was ultimately too successful, erasing reproduction entirely. In Maryland, the National Institutes of Health had “overwhelming support, with many employees applauding what they saw was a humane approach to our problem.”
Hunt managers should disclose that the negative Cornell paper they cited in The Record was produced by the “Human Dimensions Research Unit,” the wildlife-use think-tank that represents hunting agencies and weapons manufacturers waging Titanic battles against nonlethal competition. State agencies, say researchers, are the “single greatest barrier” to nonlethal progress. The Cornell paper is an outlier with unexplained anomalies not seen in other projects.
The Wildlife Society, another pro-hunt source quoted in The Record, is dominated by state managers.
Deer Conflict Management is Key
New Jersey needs to focus less on how to reduce deer and more on mitigating problems. Going forward, disclosure of conflicts and industry affiliations should be mandatory. Unelected game managers cannot continue to summarily deny townships the modern and humane deer management desired by voters.
Connections to Weapons Manufacturers and “Nature-Related Businesses
Power Sharing: Arms, ammunition, and equipment manufactures seek public funding primarily to subsidize habitat development for hunted species, client recruitment, and “enhanced” hunting experiences. Mutual management agreements mean that habitat management for non-hunted species must also benefit hunted species, or, more aptly, the hunters who shoot them, and even though dozens of federal studies show that hunting is the primary source of disturbance for birds. To obtain funding, the manufacturers collaborated with their historic allies, state and national Audubon societies. The New Jersey Audubon Society co-leads, with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, the state chapter of the industry/agency-dominated coalition.
Aside from partnering with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, the state hunting agency, the New Jersey Audubon Society works and lobbies in concert with a hunting/trapping/ animal -use PAC called the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance. It also attends meetings of the Legislature’s hunting caucus, which the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses ( firearms holding companies) cites as a working partner.
Deals arranged nationally to promote commercial logging, early succession, and forest fragmentation primarily for game species are foisted upon the states. The New Jersey Audubon Society’s and the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s aggressive promotion of commercial logging and forest fragmentation has met fierce resistance from the public and from most environmental groups in New Jersey. In addition to other, negative impacts, fragmentation and logging create ideal breeding range for whitetail deer.
“Community-based Deer Management” hunts, some approaching their fourth decade, are technical failures that result in resurgent deer, frequently rising auto collisions, increased effort and expense to kill fewer deer, significant property-taxpayer expense, and, not least, de facto management of local properties and parks to sustain perennial sport hunt opportunities.
Headlines in Princeton, which has been killing deer since 1985, telegraph failure: “Princeton readying lethal force to deer overpopulation (2018);” “PRINCETON: Township hires hunters to thin the deer population” (2016); “Township Introduces bow hunting ” (2003).
Thirty-two years of killing by bows, shotguns, bolt guns to the skulls of netted deer, and sharpshooting—yield perpetual slaughter. “’We can’t use contraceptives [which the town tried early, and briefly] said a local official, ‘the state has too many barriers for that.’” Bow hunting, said politicians, did not work. Princeton is still killing the animals, and property taxpayers are still footing the bill. In 2016, a Connecticut-based deer management company received a no-bid contract capped at $64,530 to supplement sport hunting required by the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Princeton’s aborted fertility control program ran from 2003 to 2006, when the state erected barriers. Contractor White Buffalo darted and captured every female in a designated area, injected each with contraceptives, and saw “significant population decline.” Effectively shutting down future fertility control programs, the Division of Fish and Wildlife re-interpreted Community-based Deer Management regulations to require municipalities obtain written permission from all landowners within 2000 feet of the darting. No other state requires this.
Barriers to Nonlethal Solutions
Researchers have identified the entrenched hunting culture at state wildlife management agencies partnered with arms and archery makers as the single greatest barrier to the use of nonlethal solutions. The increasingly lethal New Jersey Audubon Society, partner with the Division of Fish and Wildlife and, with the division, co-leader of New Jersey Teaming with Wildlife, a coalition whose national steering committee is dominated by firearms, ammunition, and archery manufacturers, trade associations, and wildlife regulatory agencies, widely advocates the killing of deer (and mute swans, and geese).
Unelected game officials seeking suburban hunts for their clients and fellow hunters continue to deny New Jersey townships non-lethal options used in other states with measurable success. In jokey, artfully dishonest presentations that continue to elude state reprimand, the same official, Division of Fish and Wildlife employee Carol Stanko, feeds decision makers patent falsehoods, among the most astonishing: countering, peer-reviewed studies do not exist (transcript); opponents would have the state trap and transfer deer (on tape, APLNJ and LOHVNJ oppose trap and transfer) and other untruths.
Some helpful Nonlethal Solutions and Tips
Lyme Disease Prevention
Fewer deer does not reduce the risk of contracting Lyme Disease. All warm-blooded animals can be tick carriers, including backyard song birds.
Please view our white paper on this issue here: https://tinyurl.com/WhitePaperLymeDisease
Tips provided by Lyme Disease Advocacy, Education & Research www.lymedisease.org
Reduce ticks on your property by:
- pruning trees
- clearing brush
- removing litter
- mowing grass short, and letting it dry thoroughly between watering.
- Move shrubbery and overgrowth farther away from areas frequented by people.
Make your property unattractive to animals that are hosts to ticks by:
- eliminating birdfeeders, birdbaths and salt licks;
- erecting fencing around the property;
- clearing away woodpiles, garbage and leaf piles;
- removing stonewalls that provide homes to wildlife.
- having your property chemically treated.
Seek professional advice before applying chemicals to kill ticks. Carefully-timed applications increase effectiveness.
Avoid Tick Habitat
Ticks tend to be near the ground, in leaf litter, grasses, bushes and fallen logs. High risk activities include playing in leaves, gathering firewood and leaning against tree trunks. When you hike, stay on cleared trails instead of walking across grassy fields.
Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves. Tie back long hair and wear a hat. Light-colored clothing helps you spot ticks before they cause trouble.
You can purchase clothing that has been pre-treated with the repellent permethrin at outdoor recreation stores. (The protection lasts through 70 washings.) Or, you can purchase permethrin and spray clothing yourself. (Protection lasts 5-6 washings.) Be sure to treat both the inside and outside of clothes.
Spraying footwear with permethrin will prevent ticks from crawling up your shoes. (In one study, those with treated shoes had 74% fewer tick bites than those with untreated shoes.)
Use Repellent on Exposed Skin
Studies show that repellents with DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil are the most effective.
Check for Ticks
When outdoors, periodically inspect your clothing and skin for ticks. Brush off those that aren’t attached and remove any that are.
Once home take a shower right away. This will wash away unattached ticks and offer a good chance to thoroughly inspect yourself. Feel for bumps that might be embedded ticks. Pay careful attention to hidden places, including groin, armpits, back of knees, belly button and scalp. Parents should check their children.
Running your clothes in a hot dryer for 10 minutes before you wash them will kill any ticks that may be there.
Protect Your Pets
Ticks can infect dogs and cats, too. Also, their fur can act like a “tick magnet,” carrying ticks inside your home. Consult with your veterinarian about tick-protection for your pets.
Damminix Tick Tubes (www.ticktubes.com
Lyme disease is spread by hard to reach ticks. Damminix is an intelligent tick control solution that lets you, your children and your pets safely enjoy the outdoors.
Damminix Tick Tubes:
- Provide an environmentally friendly, easy to use and precisely targeted solution to kill deer ticks.
- Have proven results of up to a 10-fold reduction of exposure to a tick that could give you Lyme disease.
- Do not expire, are EPA approved and made in the USA.
- Studies have shown that Damminix Tick Tubes actually reduces the risk of exposure to an infected tick by up to 97% on a treated property.
Many don’t realize but, when deer forage on low lying plants/vegetation around homes, they remove mice’s prime habitat and dislocate them. Mice are the ones who infect the ticks! By dislocating the mice, you are lowering your risk of Lyme disease.
How do I keep deer out of my garden?
Deer of are such beautiful creatures to observe, but if you do not want them in your garden, here are some helpful hints to humanely keep them away:
- Fruit trees are a natural attractant. Fruit should be harvested and fallen fruit removed.
- Grass and underbrush should be kept trimmed. Attractants can be surrounded by repellent plants such as: catnip, chives, garlic, lavender, onion, sage, spearmint and thyme.
- Visual stimuli like strobe lights, mylar tape, scarecrows, bright lights, motion activated water sprays, loud noises and radios will help keep the deer away.
- Deer fencing at least 8 feet high or simply fencing individual plants.
Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance
“Irish Spring soap is an affordable and effective deer repellent”
Irish Spring soap can be added to your garden as an inexpensive repellent, since animals find the stench unpleasant.
“The 12 grossest living things that are killing N.J.’s trees”
There are hundreds of insects and diseases that threaten New Jersey’s forests. But the most dangerous, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), are often pests and diseases that are not native to the state and that were introduced accidentally.
“Bergen County also suffers from this treachery”
About half of the world’s ecosystems are being encroached on and altered by human activities and farming and cities are the main drivers. Forests are being cut down at an unsustainable rate, 12% of all land has been converted to farming, which destroys ecosystems, residential and industrial areas expand, and land not being farmed is affected by air and water pollution from industrial chemicals.
Slow down and be aware—especially at dawn and dusk and in the fall and during fawning season.
The most common causes of motor vehicle accidents in the United States resulting in personal injury and death are:
- distracted driving
- weather/road conditions
- failure to stop or yield at a red light/stop sign
- failure to obey traffic laws
- drunk driving
- road rage
- unsafe speed
- reckless/careless driving
- teenagers and tailgating
Deer did not make the list.
There are many humane and effective ways to reduce the number of collisions involving deer, ranging from increasing individual awareness and caution to implementing new technology and structures.
Public officials frequently attribute deer-auto collisions to increasing deer populations, while failing to consider the impact of humans on the landscape. We have created more roadways with more people driving on them, disrupted migration routes by roadways, and given rise to ever-shrinking wildlife habitat.
Please keep in mind that frequent mowing of roadsides (which creates succulent plant growth), along with road-salt use in the winter, attract deer to roads.
Road design, road condition, and driving speeds are factors that influence the number of deer-auto collisions. Enforcing speed limits is vital. The lower the speed, the fewer collisions with deer. Bumpier, narrower roads with twists and turns, and slower travel speeds (under 45 mph) result in fewer collisions with wildlife. The proper lighting, signage, and lowering of speed limits are key.
Erecting fencing is a successful way to prevent deer from crossing roads. Reflectors on roadways also alert deer to oncoming vehicles. Wildlife crossing underpasses and overpasses are also recommended. Slow down and be aware—If one deer crosses the road, slow down and watch for more to follow. Use your high beams at night to see farther ahead. Slow down and watch for the eye-shine of deer near road edges. Always wear a seat belt and put your cell phone down.
Drive with deer in mind
- Be vigilant. Watch from side to side as you drive, especially in areas of low visibility or where shrubs or grasses are near the road.
- Watch for group behavior. Deer often travel in groups. If one deer crosses the road, slow down and watch for more to follow. Females travel together in winter, and fawns follow their mothers in spring and summer.
- Be extra cautious in the fall, when bucks are on the move due to rutting and hunting seasons, and in the spring (May to June), when yearlings are seeking new territories.
- Be especially watchful at dusk and dawn, when deer tend to be more active.
- Use your high beams at night to see farther ahead. Slow down and watch for the eye-shine of deer near road edges.
- Try to drive straight, avoiding swerving around wildlife; rather, try to brake firmly and blow your horn. Animals are easily confused. If you swerve, deer may run into the vehicle rather than away from it. And swerving could mean driving into another vehicle or off the road into poles or fences.
- Slow down!
Making roads safer
- Enforce speed limits in areas with deer. The lower the speed, the fewer collisions with deer.
- Erect fences. One of the most successful techniques for alleviating deer/vehicle collisions is to use fencing to prevent deer from crossing roads.
- Install devices that warn deer of oncoming cars.
- Streiter Lite® reflectors, which reflect headlights to create an optical illusion of a fence and alert deer to oncoming vehicles, have been reported to reduce deer/vehicle collisions by 60 to 100 percent.
- Deer Deter devices alert deer to oncoming vehicles by combining a strobe light effect with ultrasonic high-pitched sounds.
- Mount motion-activated flashing lights on deer-crossing signs or posts to warn motorists about the presence of deer.
- Construct green bridges or wildlife crossing underpasses to enable wildlife to cross roads without having to negotiate traffic.
Could white canvas bags help keep deer away from roadways?
Researchers from Wyoming discovered a way to decrease the number of deer-related crashes. They theorize the white color might alert the deer, much in the way they alert each other by flipping their white tails in times of danger.
New Jersey should implement this along highways and roadways. It can be an affordable and successful solution for our state.