Ocean Township officials hope to come up with a solution for the township’s deer-overpopulation problem in January – an issue that was addressed on Nov. 5 when voters said yes to controlling the deer population.
The Township Council placed two special nonbinding referendums on the ballot to get a sense of where residents stand on two issues: the deer population and medical marijuana sales. Voters said they would prefer nonlethal methods be used to help control the township’s out-of-control deer population, narrowly defeating a policy to use both nonlethal and lethal methods.
Only 309 votes separated a policy to use only nonlethal methods from the other proposal to use a combination of lethal and nonlethal methods.
Siciliano said he believes any efforts to sterilize deer needs to be privately funded and that the program would proceed to the extent it is funded.
“It would not be funded through property taxes,” he said.
The said he believes that if the program is unsuccessful or underfunded after a few years, or proven to be unsuccessful, then the lethal option would be implemented. “(Sterilization) is extremely costly,” he said.
Jodi Powers, Senior Wildlife Biologist with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Wildlife Management, recently gave a presentation to the council about deer management where she said is costs about $800 to $1,000 to sterilize each deer and it needs to be done every year.
“A nonlethal method does not make sense,” she said, adding that it can, however, be introduced into the process.
She said birth control methods “are not really working. It can work in a fenced-in population but not in the wild and none of it is proven,” she said.
Powers said a lot of towns in Monmouth County use a lethal control method and that the cost for sterilization is mostly prohibitive.
“A lot of residents want deer management and the nonlethal method would be funded from whatever is raised. That’s how I would approach it. But I have other council members that may have their own views but I am not willing to put this cost on the taxpayers,” Powers said.
Siciliano said he hopes the governing body can come up with a policy in January.
“We are still in the discussion stage,” he said.
Deputy Mayor John Napolitani said there is no question that the township has to do something about the deer population.
“I think ultimately it will boil down to a combination of both lethal and nonlethal. Nothing is firm but I think we have to make a decision- that is what people elected us to do and the people have spoken. But at up to $1,000 to sterilize each deer, I don’t think that is possible,” he said.
“The bottom line is we don’t have a choice. Too many deer are causing havoc in the township and people want something done. They have no natural predators and the only thing culling the herd is that they are getting hit by cars,” he said.
Napolitani said that Powers recently testified that deer will eventually starve to death if there are too many of them.
“And that is inhumane in itself,” he said.
He said the number of deer in the township is unknown but that the estimates are high.
Councilman Robert Acerra, who was part of a special study looking into deer management, said he thinks the issue still needs more examination.
“I don’t know if there is a clear answer so far and we need more educational events. I don’t think people voting for the nonlethal method realize the cost- it is going to be very expensive,” he said.