In Your Opinion: Frankly, My Deer

By Bill Connell, Somerset.

I have been a member of the Open Space Advisory Committee for the better part of a decade. As part of our charge we review the data on deer and help modify hunting policy recommendations to the Township Council as needed. Some of those changes have made headlines, in fact, the changes have been minor. They are more tweaks then overhauls.

I am not a hunter. It does nothing for me. I had an incident with my lawn mower and wildlife and I cried. I am pragmatic though. I have sat though 10’s of hours of information sessions on the dangers and damage of deer. I am only one person on the Open Space Committee, I am only one opinion but I have grown inpatient. We have different ideas but we don’t act on them. This ramble is not to debate hunting, it is to discuss a couple fresh ideas to an unavoidable and growing problem.

Within our ordinances, hunting is allowed on larger parcels of private land, and Open Space manages a permitting process on a few of our properties. The contribution of this hunting to our deer management is directly related to the motivation of the hunters that hunt on them. One idea that has been discussed many times is hiring professional hunters and giving them a quota for the season. The town would actually pay hunters per deer harvested. Right now we only have voluntary hunting. Professional hunters should increase the harvest dramatically. Much like if we had professional firefighters, it should increase our daytime response times.

Here is another idea that is possible. I live in the over-developed northern part of Franklin. The deer in my neighborhood are more family pets. I have spent thousands of dollars feeding them over the years. Did you know if you collected approvals from your neighbors you could organize a hunt? To make it work you would need about 3 acres of land or more so you had the proper ordinance buffers.

For those who ask about “deer contraception,” please know it is about three times the cost per unit with no guarantee of success. Besides, deer are not good listeners and their hoofs prohibit holding the banana for practice. That’s a lot of work but that’s the imagination you would need to have any meaningful impact.

There are more unique solutions that are in our control if we wish and had support to do so. At the same time we are working to gain cooperation from the county and the state to allow more hunting on their properties. This is an uphill battle. We have no support from the state to handle Six Mile Run, which is split by South Middlebush Road. The township can only do so much to the damage of your property without state attention, but we are always looking.

Anybody who is anti-hunting, please do not lecture me. My job is to help leaders make policy. I am not a hunting advocate but I am a public safety advocate. As a cyclist nothing drove my responsibility home more then the stench of a deer on the side of the road as I cycled by.


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