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Despite Critics, Essex County Officials Say Deer Hunts Needed

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NORTH CALDWELL, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Deer are beautiful to look at, but some Essex County residents say they’re a nuisance.

As CBS 2′s Don Champion reported, for yet another year, the county is allowing selected hunters to keep a handle on the deer population. But is the program still needed?

Home videos shot by Essex residents show the deer grazing on lawns and running into streets.

“I’ve never seen so many deer till I moved here,” said Kimberly Ginsberg, who has lived in North Caldwell for only a year. She adds that the animals have already caused damage to her property, so much so that she and her husband put up a fence to keep them out.

“We found some of our shrubs eaten,” she said. “We found deer poop in our backyard.”

The deer also raise concerns about Lyme disease.

For the seventh year in a row, the county is allowing 15 trained hunters to kill deer in the South Mountain and Hilltop reservations. The hunts will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays through Feb. 13. On those days, the reservations will be closed to the public.

Daniel Bernier, a wildlife management consultant, said that even when the deer population is lowered to the desired level, more hunting is necessary to maintain it.

Last year, 152 deer were killed in Essex. Meanwhile, the number of deer killed in accidents on roads has fallen from 363 in 2008 to 201 last year.

Critics argue the deer don’t deserve to die. County officials, however, say they’ve looked at other nonlethal methods to control the population, including fertility drugs, but the alternatives aren’t viable.

“None of them are yet practical in a free-range population,” Bernier said. “You just can’t give the drug to enough deer to effectuate a population reduction.”

Ginsberg conceded there is no easy solution.

“I’m very pro-animal rights,” she said. “I hate to see animals die. It’s kind of a double-edged sword.”

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