By Jaimie Julia Winters
Summer is here, and Montclairites are dealing with some unwanted guests. Deer forage through residents’ yards and Canada geese take over parks and fields, leaving droppings.
What’s a town to do when wildlife become a nuisance?
Montclair has a proactive plan of geese hazing and goose egg addling at the two parks with bodies of water — Edgemont and Yantacaw parks — where the geese congregate, said Director of Community Services Steve Wood. On a heavy day there’s 30-40 geese, especially now during molting season, said Wood.
After receiving a request from a resident who lives in the vicinity of Brookdale Park, the Environmental Commission created a Deer Team last week to investigate possible solutions to the growing deer population, chairperson Lyle Landon said.
For 10 years, the town has contracted with Goose Control Technology to conduct hazing or chasing with lasers and egg addling, Wood said. For the last three years, the town has also contracted with Geese Chasers, a firm that brings in collies a few times a week to chase the geese away January through April. When the geese lose their feathers, or molt, and can’t fly, the hazing ceases.
“It would do no good to chase them now as they can’t go anywhere without their flight feathers and it would be inhumane,” Wood said.
During the molting season from late May through early July, it’s not unusual to see more geese. The migratory birds will seek out shelter near water before they molt and stay until their feathers come back in.
Due to construction at Edgemont, Geese Chasers was not contracted for the earlier part of this year. When the geese are done molting the collie and laser hazing will resume, Wood said.
Egg addling is done in April and May and entails either puncturing the egg or covering it with vegetable oil, both of which prevents hatching. Steve Toth, a spokesperson for Goose Control Technology, said the town handles about eight nests a year. The geese, who partner for life, lay two to eight eggs per nest. The eggs have a 25-day incubation period.
Goose Control has conducted two geese roundups in Montclair: one in 2007 and one last year. During each roundup, Goose Control rounded up about 25 geese, which were taken to a poultry farm to be put down. U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulations require the geese to be euthanized, not relocated. Toth said it would be unethical to take nuisance geese and make them another area’s problem. The birds could also carry diseases that could infect other bird-life populations, as well.
“And birds imprint on a place and would very well make their way back to Montclair,” he said.
The town is required to get permits from U.S. Fish and Wildlife for addling and roundups.
The roundup scheduling is based on clients’ needs, and Montclair seems satisfied with the results of the last two roundups and aren’t planning any in the near future, said Toth.
He said the best management is a no-feeding policy, habitat management which entails making the area unattractive to geese, hazing, egg treatment and removal in extreme cases.
A Dryden Road resident has requested that the town come up with a plan using birth control methods to control the deer population.
“Deer have completely destroyed what was once a huge selling point for our home, a beautifully-maintained front-yard flower garden. Every year it has gotten worse. I now see herds of deer every day, and I am nowhere near the reserve,” the resident wrote in a letter to Mayor Jackson and the Community Services Department.
In January, Essex County conducted 11 days of deer hunting, or culling, killing 139 deer and 73 unborn deer, according to the office of Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr.
Hunts, where marksmen are stationed in trees and shoot down at deer, were conducted at South Mountain Reservation in Millburn, Maplewood and West Orange, and Hilltop Reservation in Cedar Grove, North Caldwell and Verona. Montclair was not included.
“Hunts in Montclair would never fly,” Wood said about a deer hunt at Mills Reservation.
But with worries over deer motor vehicle accidents, Lyme disease and habitat destruction, towns are battling with how to control the encroachment of deer. Wood said the population increase is due to more development and with the only deer predator being the automobile.
The MEC formed the Deer Team to look into birth control methods such as the PZP (porcine zona pellucida) immunocontraception vaccine. The Humane Society of the United States recommends it as a safe and effective method to control fertility in adult female deer. PZP can be delivered to adult female deer by hand or remotely using darts shot from a dart gun and prevents females from having fawns for up to three years.
“In general, fertility controls have not proven all that effective because they do have to be re-administered periodically, meaning the deer have to be trapped. It can be expensive, as well,” said Lawrence Hajna, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The state Division of Fish And Wildlife said roadside devices have been used in an effort to minimize deer/vehicle accidents. Special reflectors can be placed along roads with high numbers of deer-vehicle accidents. At night, the headlights of vehicles hit the reflectors, which flash light and emit noise into the surrounding area, intending to scare deer away from the road. Noise-emitting wildlife crossing guards cost approximately $114 each. Other deterrents include net fencing and repellent applied to vegetation. Trap and transfer programs are forbidden in New Jersey.
The use of fertility control chemicals and vaccines on deer in New Jersey requires a special permit from the division. The application must contain the credentials of the person administering the contraceptive procedure, the purpose or intent of the procedure and an assessment of environmental impacts.
“To date, fertility control appears to have only limited applications and is extremely labor-intensive. Princeton Township’s attempt to control suburban deer numbers through immuno-contraception cost the township $814 a deer,” states the state Division of Fish And Wildlife in its Community Plans for Deer Control. The deer also require boosters.
Research conducted in Madison where GonaConTM immunocontraception vaccine was used reveals a 67 percent efficacy rate with a single injection of GonaConT, according to Fish and Wildlife data.
The Morris County Park Commission used chemical fertility control in 1997 at Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown. Ten female deer were darted with porcine zonae pellucida (PZP). Frequent movements of the deer in and out of the Arboretum made subsequent booster vaccinations difficult, and the study was abandoned, according to the state.
“The time and cost of finding and administering booster vaccines to individual deer, and the need to obtain prior written permission to access all properties on which deer may be tranquilized, recovered and vaccinated makes chemical fertility control impractical for large, free-ranging deer populations,” according to NJDEP.
Wood said because deer graze regionally, not just in one town, any control plan should be regional.
On Monday, in response to the state’s rejection of Saddle River’s plan to capture and inoculate deer, the town was expected to vote on joining an annual deer hunt to reduce the population that has plagued the town for years. The motion was tabled.