Bill would give animal rights groups voice in NJ wildlife

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Senate proposal could halt deer cull

David Campbell, The Princeton Packet

05/28/2002

Bill would impose a statewide moratorium on killing deer under the state's deer-management program.

  A bill is being drafted in the New Jersey Legislature that would impose a statewide moratorium on deer killing under the state's deer-management program while a task force conducts an investigation.

  "The moratorium goes beyond the issue of wildlife. It goes to the issue of safety," said Pete Cammarano, aide to Senate President Richard Codey (D-West Orange), the bill's sponsor. "We do have concerns, particularly in densely populated areas. It's a tough issue for us."

  Sen. Codey introduced a draft of the bill in March but withdrew it in May following objections by the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance, Mr. Cammarano said.

  The animal-rights group objected to the membership of the task force to be created under the bill, which was slated for review by the state Senate's Environment Committee, because it included members the group considered biased in favor of lethal methods, Mr. Cammarano said.

  The senator will revise and resubmit the bill, but a timeline for this to occur has not been set, Mr. Cammarano said.

  The draft bill calls for a task force to investigate statewide suburban wildlife management with a focus on the management of deer, resident Canada geese, bear and coyote.

  The task force would have a year to conduct its study and submit a report of its findings and recommendations for legislative or regulatory action.

  Under the bill, wildlife population control through traditional hunting and sharpshooting under the state's deer-management program as well as nonlethal alternatives would be investigated by the task force. The killing of deer with captive-bolt guns, which took place in Princeton Township with the approval of the state, also would be investigated.

  In addition, the bill would prohibit the Division of Fish and Wildlife from issuing permits to municipalities for killing deer under the state program until after the task force issues its findings.

  The task force would be composed of seven members: the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection; the director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife; a representative from the New Jersey State League of Municipalities; and four public members to be appointed by the governor.

  Under the draft bill, the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs recommends at least one of the governor's appointees, and the governor would be required to appoint at least one representative each from an animal-welfare group and the law-enforcement community.

  Terry Fritzges of the Animal Rights Alliance said that "our understanding was that it (the draft bill) was going to be a bill that was to propose nonlethal methods.

  "What we would hope is the revised bill would include individuals or organizations that don't have a vested interest in any method or particular approach," she said.

  Ms. Fritzges said her group opposed the appointment of the director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife and a representative of hunting groups to the task force.

  "I was surprised that people were included that at least in our experience have not been receptive to nonlethal methods and whose whole purpose is to kill animals," she said.

  Ms. Fritzges said the revised bill, if passed in time, could halt the deer cull next year not only in Princeton Township but statewide.

  "Princeton has the reputation for having the most notorious method for killing animals, but they're not alone," she said. "This would have a statewide effect that could put a hold on for at least a year, maybe more."

  Princeton Township Administrator James Pascale declined to comment on the revised legislation until it has been introduced. DEP spokeswoman Elaine Makatura was unavailable for comment.

  Princeton Township ended the second year of its deer cull Feb. 22 with 303 deer killed. Connecticut-based wildlife-management firm White Buffalo killed deer at night with high-powered rifles at baited sites, and at netted bait sites with captive-bolt guns, which fire a lethal retractable bolt into the animal's head.

  A lawsuit challenging the township cull as hazardous to public safety and a violation of state animal-cruelty laws is pending in the Appellate Division of state Superior Court.
 
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