Looking for Ways to Control Deer Population

By Brenda Flanagan

“It’s a really big problem,” said Saddle River resident Susan Zabransky.

Almost everyone in Saddle River’s got an “Oh, deer!” story. Most involve cars.

“My husband, yesterday, cars were stopped on both sides because this herd of 14 deer are crossing the road. And his car’s been hit. The Lyme disease problem. It’s just a huge problem,” Zabransky said.

“Just give me a game plan. That’s what we’re looking for. Myself and animal control officers across the state. There’s no area that isn’t affected by deer right now,” said Carol Tyler, northern regional director of the New Jersey Certified Animal Control Officers Association.

New Jersey’s whitetail deer population can be a charm and an affliction for many suburban towns. The DEP estimates 26,000 vehicles crash into deer every year. Tyler says road kill’s one way to measure the population and fatalities usually climb during the fall breeding season when hormone-fueled bucks chase does into the street.

“The busiest day I think we picked up 14 in one day. And mostly about two to three every day at least,” said Tyler.

Saddle River’s animal control officer confirmed even a borough police car hit a deer here a couple days ago. And during mating season, deer can get aggressive, toward people and pets.

A buck charged Linda Roseman’s dog in a Demarest park on Sunday, inflicting a deep stab wound. The pup’s OK, but incidents like these prompted Saddle River to put two ballot questions about deer control on this Tuesday’s ballot. Residents voted to study the deer population and reduce it, but most favored non-lethal means.

“My first choice would be for them to really explore every possible non-lethal method to control the deer population,” said Saddle River resident Bonnie Pennell.

“There would have to be a deer count — an official count — certified, with authenticated results. That’s what I’m a proponent for,” said Amy Atkinson.

A local vet offered to perform vasectomies on bucks and vaccinate does with birth control. One national expert says the method can work, but it’s painstaking and expensive.

“If we can get the vaccine into them, we can reduce fawning rates from 80 to 90 percent to about 10 percent. So there’s a real significant drop. The challenge is always in getting the vaccine into enough females to affect the population,” said Dr. Allen Rutberg, Tufts University Center for Animals and Public Policy Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Hunters in New Jersey harvested more than 41,000 with guns and bows last year, according to the DEP. And some Saddle River residents wouldn’t mind a hunt here.

“They’re lovely. Are they sweet? Are they cute? Yes. I know all those things. But it’s dangerous,” said Zabransky.

The borough council will meet Monday to consider options.