Proposal for killing deer faulted

Princeton plans to fire a bolt into captured animals' skulls

January 04, 2002|By Maria Newman | Maria Newman,NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, N.J. -- A New Jersey township's plan to reduce its deer population by capturing them in nets and firing a bolt into their skulls has provoked an outcry from animal rights advocates and some of the community's well-known artists and thinkers.

The township, Princeton, has hired a private firm to kill the deer using the method, which opponents call cruel and inhumane.

The opponents sponsored a rally at Palmer Square in Princeton featuring the singer Patti Smith and speakers such as the author Joyce Carol Oates and the ethicist Peter Singer.


Carl Mayer, a lawyer for the Mercer County Deer Alliance, one of the groups sponsoring the rally, called the net-and-bolt program "barbaric and unnecessary" and said its methods were used in slaughterhouses.

Mayer and another lawyer, Bruce Afran, are representing 45 plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Dec. 13 to stop the township's deer management program.

"It's not only an issue of public safety, but this also violates New Jersey's animal cruelty statutes," he said. "We believe what they are doing is torturing the animal and acting unbelievably cruelly."

The township is in the second year of a five-year plan to reduce the number of deer, which town officials say are causing too many auto accidents and other problems for homeowners.

Jim Pascale, the township administrator, said that last year, sharpshooters working for a private contractor reduced the township's deer herd by about 322.

In that program, hunters used high-powered rifles with silencers to shoot deer lured to a feeding area. But Pascale said that method was not as safe in areas that are more densely populated, so the township decided to use the net-and-bolt method.

`We love animals'

"We love animals just as much as the next person; however, in a situation with a deer population that has exploded due to development and limited animal habitat, we had to take action," he said.

The rifle program last year was conducted on public and private property. But Pascale said the township will send the hunting teams only to private residences when they are invited by owners who consider the deer a nuisance.

New Jersey's townships have tried various ways of reducing the deer population, with mixed success. Millburn tried exporting its excess deer to a farm in upstate New York last year, and later decided to hire sharpshooters. A deer contraception program at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum, in Morris County, recently ended after being declared a failure.

In November, state wildlife officials gave Princeton Township permission to cull up to 500 deer this winter using sharpshooters or nets.

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