Last week, I had the opportunity to attend an event sponsored by the Animal Protection League of New Jersey on the topic of non-lethal responses to deer overpopulation. Former Senator Raymond Lesniak kicked off the event by breaking the news that the Lesniak Institute will be working with advocates and Union County officials to establish a deer fertility control program in Union County.
The event featured speakers from the Clifton Deer Program, a non-profit organization out of Cincinnati, Ohio where, six years ago, deer overpopulation was a huge problem. When the city responded with sponsored hunting in residential areas to reduce the number of deer, residents of the Clifton neighborhood knew that there had to be a better option.
Rather than resorting to hunting for sport to curb deer overpopulation, the volunteers behind the Clifton Deer Program turned to science. In their research, they found that fertility control programs could gradually reduce the deer population in their neighborhood to a sustainable size without unnecessary lethal force.
The model proposed by the Clifton Deer Program is one that can be enacted all over the country, including in New Jersey where deer overpopulation is a concern for many. Not only is this program a long-term solution, but it is a humane response. Innocent wild animals should not have to pay the price for existing with their lives.
Not only is hunting deer for sport as a method of population management inhumane, but it is also ineffective. The evidence suggests that killing deer does not lead to long-term population reduction. Although deer hunts reduce population size in the short-term, they do not prevent the surviving herd members from repopulating. Deer are very resilient, and organized deer hunts do not take this into consideration.
Deer overpopulation in suburban and urban communities warrants a response; however, it is our responsibility to ensure that all life is respected. Utilizing fertility control programs acknowledges that deer are sentient beings, and that it is not our place to stalk and kill them because some perceive them to be pests.
There are two main options for fertility control: surgical sterilization and immunocontraceptives. Surgical sterilization involves a short procedure, similar to spaying or neutering a dog or cat. Immunocontraceptives are administered in the form of a vaccine that stops fertilization from happening. The Humane Society has deemed both approaches to population management as humane where necessary and appropriate.
While these options may seem invasive or unfair to the animals, it is important to remember that, in many cases, the alternative is a slow, painful death bleeding out from injuries sustained by hunters. Fertilization control programs allow communities to manage the deer population while still respecting wildlife.
This topic is extremely relevant in New Jersey where deer overpopulation is a concern for many communities. Residents throughout the state have complained about unwanted deer-human interactions and the negative ecological impact of deer overpopulation on other wildlife communities.
It is important to remember that having this problem is not an excuse to resort to excessive and unnecessary violence against wild animals, especially when there are effective humane options to consider. Deer are sentient beings who feel pain and fear. Their lives deserve respect. The only ethical way to manage deer populations humanely is to adopt fertilization control programs within our communities.
Senator Lesniak was recently surprised to learn that Union County’s existing deer population management program involved killing nearly 300 deer per year rather than exploring non-lethal options. As an advocate for the voiceless wildlife populating New Jersey, Senator Lesniak has decided to take on this cause. He is encouraged by positive interest shown by Union County leadership.
Senator Lesniak would like to see these fertility control programs established throughout the State of New Jersey, beginning with Union County, as soon as possible.
You can show your support for humane, non-lethal methods of deer population management by contacting your county commissioners. Together, we can choose to respond to this issue with compassion and truly manage deer populations with programs that work for the long-term.
About The Author: Maggie is a PR and Social Media Intern at the Lesniak Institute for American Leadership. She is also a senior at Fairleigh Dickinson University where she is double majoring in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations and Political Science. Maggie aspires to help her community by advocating for progressive social justice policies.