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Northern Highlands Daily Voice serves Allendale, Ho-Ho-Kus, Midland Park, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River & Waldwick

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Oh, Deer: Saddle River Wrestles With Yes/No Vote On Hunting

Deer are a common site in the Northern Highlands towns. This one was spotted in Allendale Monday. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Amy Atkinson of Saddle River has been working hard for the borough to use only non-lethal methods to manage its deer population. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash

SADDLE RIVER, N.J. —Saddle River residents supported hunting deer and not hunting deer at the polls Tuesday.

They voted on two non-binding municipal questions, each on the same topic but worded differently.

The vote leaves them with a question: now what?

It may be answered at Monday’s Borough Council meeting when Mayor Al Kurpis gives an update on the issue and Councilman Paul Schulstad reports on the Wildlife Management Committee.

Since the questions are non-binding, the vote tallies will be one factor the governing body takes into account as it evaluates and implements a policy to manage deer.

Two years ago, the local health department and environmental commission identified “a significant deer problem” in Saddle River and recommended urgent action, according to the ballot.

Local deer advocates, backed up by state animal activist leagues, have been pushing for sterilizing – not killing – deer.

Tuesday, the public voted in favor of question one, 715 to 457, which called for managing deer using only non-lethal methods.

But it also voted in favor of question two, 582-544, which called for managing deer using methods that include killing them.

Amy Atkinson of Saddle River canvassed and demonstrated to convince residents to support only non-lethal methods.

She said she feels the election results – and her grassroots encounters with residents - show they oppose hunting.

“Many of them said they wouldn’t want their children exposed to the horrors of hunting,” Atkinson said.

Angi Metler is co-director of the New Jersey Chapter of The League of Humane Voters and executive director of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey .

Both groups are highly active in helping local animal-supportive efforts statewide.

“We had several members at the polls in Saddle River. They were 100 feet away,” Metler said.

“A lot of residents were very pleased we were there because they were confused,” she added. “They understood the first question but apparently they didn’t understand the second one.”

The Animal Protection League has agreed to donate $15,000 to sterilization efforts, Metler said, if the borough adopts an exclusive non-lethal deer management policy.

The Humane Society of the United States also has offered money under the same circumstances, she explained, as have some local residents.

According to Metler, sterilization is both more humane and effective in achieving the goal: reducing the deer population.

“Sterilization reduces deer fertility and hunting stimulates it,” she said. “If you have 10 deer in a park and you kill five, the five survivors have twice the habitat and food supply.”

They then are much more likely to produce twins and triplets, Metler said.

The Monday meeting will take place at the Saddle River Municipal Building, 100 E. Allendale Road, at 7 p.m.

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