Talk of expanding the township's deer cull by bow and arrow marksman was the main focus of the township council on Monday night.
Captain Gary Marshuetz along with two experienced hunters, Sgt. John Drumm and Chris Southworth, were invited to attend the conference meeting to discuss the potential expansion of the program.
This year's goal, according to Marshuetz, is to decrease Livingston's deer population by 35 percent. The program is intended to help protect property, reduce the number of vehicle accidents caused by deer in the street, and to help prevent the spread of ticks.
Until now the program, which began in the fall of 2009, has been carried out exclusively in the watershed property at the south side of the township. In the first year of the program, hunters were able to cull 32 deer. Earlier this year 60 deer were culled.
In the past, hunters lured deer onto the East Orange Water Reserve property. "We felt like we did accomplish that to some degree," said Marshuetz who added that he did not believe it was feasible to bait deer from the north and central portions of the township onto the watershed property.
According to Deputy Township Manager Russell Jones, the committee broke down the township into three zones, similar to those used in the past for leaf collection and identified 14 or 15 sites that could be used to stage a hunt.
Jones went through the list of potential hunting locations. He said some locations make sense but others need to be reconsidered if they are too small or too close in proximity to a building. Among the locations under consideration are a roughly four-acre strip of NJ Green Acres land behind the Shalom Temple, Prospect Park, the basin area of Northland Park behind the pool area stretching North Livingston Avenue all the way up to Cliffside Park.
Other possible locations include the back area of Memorial Park, the rear of the Senior/Community Center and Eisenhower Parkway Park, which extends from the Circle Firehouse to Heritage Middle School.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Santola stressed that these locations are all just under consideration and that nothing is set in stone. Santola also brought up the concern about neighborhood kids potentially playing on recreation areas in October while the hunt is ongoing.
"When there's students out there, we're not going to be out there," said Drumm.
While the committee intends to be more aggressive this year, they are also mindful of the public's perception to the hunt. To further address Santola's concerns, Marshuetz explained that some locations may "fall off of the map" if there is resistance from residents. "If we have to drop parcels off of our inventory list, that would not be a problem for us. We would rather drop them off then take a chance of developing complaints," he said.
Drumm added that the committee may consider a one or two day hunt in certain areas and have police officers close off the area.
Safety is a top priority. "If me and Chris [Southworth] go in there and don't feel that it's a safe area to go in and hunt, we're not going to take it," said Drumm.
Marshuetz also noted that while the state's proximity laws have been decreased in the state from 400 feet to 150 feet to a structure, the committee has chosen to be cautious and establish their own proximity line of 200 feet. Also, while the state has legalized the use of cross-bows, the committee does not currently permit them.
In addition, hunters are required to notify the committee by phone whenever they enter and the leave the woods, as well as when they bait.
Over the course of the next two months, members of the committee will survey the various sites and determine which ones would be feasible to hunt. "We're going to look at the lot size, use of the lot, access to the lot," said Marshuetz. He also noted that the hunters want to be discrete. "We want to operate behind the scenes and under-the-radar.”
Mayor Rudy Fernandez suggested that the committee create a shorter list of areas in each section with the most deer-related complaints, which something that everyone was in agreement with.
At the request of the council, this summer the committee will outline locations they feel need priority. Hunting season in Livingston tentatively begins on September 11 and continues until the end of February.
The Town Council will meet next on Monday, July 11 with a Conference meeting beginning at 7:30 p.m. followed by a Regular meeting at 8 p.m.