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Princeton Council awards deer management contract in efforts to control town’s deer population

The Princeton Council has awarded a contract to White Buffalo Inc. to help control the town’s deer population, including a pilot sterilization program aimed at female deer.

The contract, which was approved by the Princeton Council at its Sept. 27 meeting, allocates up to $70,300 for deer removal and deer management services, and up to $62,300 for the pilot sterilization program.

“The (deer management) services are provided to manage the negative impacts of an overabundant deer population,” according to Administrator Bernard Hvozdovic’s Sept. 26 memorandum to Mayor Mark Freda and the Princeton Council.

Those “negative impacts” are deer-car collisions, Lyme disease, destruction to the vegetation and understory in Princeton’s parks and open spaces, and destruction to private properties, Hvozdovic wrote.

White Buffalo Inc., which is based in Connecticut, uses sharpshooters to kill the deer. It also uses bait to attract and trap deer under drop nets and then euthanizes them in areas of town with too many houses nearby where sharpshooting is not feasible, according to officials.

Sharpshooters will be stationed in elevated tree stands or in the back of a pickup truck. Bait sites will be chosen to ensure that bullets from the sharpshooters’ rifles will not travel beyond the target area. The sharpshooters will operate in the late afternoon, with most of the activity taking place after sundown, officials said.

A pilot sterilization program is new this year, officials said. A dart containing a tranquilizer will be aimed at the doe, or female deer. The doe will be taken to a surgical bay and its ovaries will be removed. The surgical prep and surgery takes about 20 minutes. The doe will then be returned to the field.

The goal is to sterilize up to 40 does, officials said. Sterilization means a doe would only be handled once, compared to using immuno-contraceptives. A doe must be captured and given a contraceptive several times, as compared to surgical sterilization which requires capturing the deer once and then releasing it after the procedure.

Princeton’s overall deer management plan has set an immediate target of reducing the deer herd to not more than 30 deer per square mile in the 18-square-mile town. A study conducted by the town last year estimated the deer population at 34 deer per square mile.

White Buffalo Inc. has suggested that between 100 and 115 deer should be culled through legal means, starting in late January or early February 2023, according to its Sept. 2 proposal to the municipality. White Buffalo killed 147 deer last year.

White Buffalo Inc. set the lower number of deer to be killed based on fewer collisions between deer and cars, it stated in its proposal.

There were 31 deer-car collisions between January and August of this year, as compared to 51 deer-car collisions during the same time period in 2021. It is expected that the total number of deer-car collisions will fall below the goal of not more than 70 crashes, officials said.

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