SADDLE RIVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There’s controversy over the way one New Jersey community is culling its deer population.

For the third year, bow hunters are being invited onto select residential properties, but some neighbors say they didn’t know and they are worried about their safety, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Sunday.

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Jessica Gotthold said she was walking to her backyard gazebo the other day when she noticed steps away from her property line, “… a deer-feeding bait stand, which is used for hunting.”

There was also a tree stand, where her husband said he has seen a bow-and-arrow hunter three times in the last week.

“It’s actually recreational murder of another animal,” Saddle River resident Jeff Rudden said.

“We could have friends over with kids that could be running around and we were never notified. What’s astounding is that someone’s life could actually be in jeopardy because of this situation,” Gotthold added.

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Their neighbor declined an on-camera interview, but he is one of an undisclosed number of residents who have given permission to the nonprofit United Bowhunters of New Jersey.

Bob LaViano is chairman of Saddle River’s Environmental Commission and said the last two years of the program improved quality of life compared to before.

“The deer were just taking over this town,” LaViano said. “The police were actually going out and shooting coyotes, because we had so many coyotes, because the coyotes were feeding off the deer… I was pulling ticks off my dogs like crazy. Every time you drove around town, you’d see a dead deer on the side of the road.”

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The mayor and council would not speak with Rozner on camera, citing the fact that the borough is currently in litigation over the matter.

The Animal Protection League is suing the borough. Teresa Aurori is a plaintiff and sits on the Environmental Commission.

“Hunting does not belong in backyards. It belongs in the woods,” Aurori said.

She claims borough stats don’t point to a tick problem or car accident issue. Helena Zagorski said police knocked on her door Saturday to retrieve a deer shot by a hunter.

“This is not first time that they’ve actually jumped the fence after being shot with an arrow,” Zagorski said.

But LaViano said there have only been a handful of incidents like that since 2018, and last month the state wrote the borough manager a letter “supporting efforts to control over abundant deer for the safety of residents, recovery of natural landscapes and reduction of property damage.”

Residents CBS2 spoke with said they should be able to vote on the matter.

LaViano said the program is cost effective as the borough only needs to pay for a refrigerated truck. It does not pay the bow hunters. Reps for the United Bowhunters of New Jersey did not get back to CBS2’s requests for comment.

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