By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Last year they were eating tree seedlings out of Stephen Knowlton’s yard on Church Street in Fair Haven. This year he’s having a hard time keeping a patch of lilies.
Elizabeth Lilleston, Fair Haven’s code enforcement officer and a resident of Woodland Drive, says she sees them daily roaming the street.
And Mayor Mike Halfacre, who also lives on Church, snapped a picture on his cell phone last week of one chomping on his neighbor’s grass.
If Fair Haven’s deer population isn’t controlled, Knowlton warned, “they’re going to be sleeping on our front lawns.”
Like towns across New Jersey, the borough is now facing a tricky problem: an apparent rise in deer wandering into the residential areas of town, and few options to thin the herds.
“I don’t know what we can do short of a hunt,” Halfacre said.
The state allows systematic bow hunting, or “cull hunts,” that give individuals the right to hunt deer on private property, but there are distance restrictions that would likely preclude the borough from pursuing that option, Halfacre said. Hunters aren’t allowed to shoot within 50 yards of a habitable structure in the public hunts and they must shoot from an elevated position, law says.
The only conceivable place to allow such hunting might be Fair Haven Fields, where herds have popped up recently, he said. Lilleston said she’s heard of deer roving in the area of the Harding Bird Sanctuary and the borough’s “college streets” area off Harding Road.
Halfacre said the council will contact the state Division of Fish & Wildlife to try and lay out possible ways to reduce the number of deer in town.
“We can certainly look at our options as far as a hunt is concerned,” he said.
Pointing to Shrewsbury, which recently completed a town-wide survey and decided not to hold formal deer hunts, but rather continue to give property owners the option to kill deer on their own, Halfacre said if the white-tailed population is reduced there, it would likely do the same in Fair Haven.
Lilleston said it’s a problem that’s infiltrated neighboring Little Silver and Rumson, too, and it’s up to the municipalities to find an option to keep the herds under control.
“It’s an issue I hope you will take seriously and address,” she told the council. “We’ve got this whole peninsula where all the deer are trapped.”