New Jersey Audubon Society Comes Out In Support of Deer Hunting

The New Jersey Audubon Society angered animal rights activists in March. After collaborating with animal rights and other groups in opposing New Jersey’s bear hunt, the New Jersey Audubon Society released a report endorsing deer hunting as an effect method for managing New Jersey’s large white-tailed deer population.

In a 25-page white paper analyzing threats to New Jersey’s forests,, the Audubon Society said that the estimated 200,000 white-tailed deer in the state threatened to further stress the habitats of birds and other wildlife.

According to the report,

Deer are more abundant today than ever before. In many regions of New Jersey, they are driving rapid ecosystem alterations resulting in local extirpation of native plants and a subsequent takeover by invasive species. While white-tailed deer are clearly a native inhabitant of New Jersey, their current level of abundance is not. Since European settlement, white-tailed deer have expanded their geographic range and greatly increased in abundance. . . . Statewide, deer densities range from a low of 5 deer per km^2 in South Jersey in the Pine Barrens up to 30 per km^2 in central New Jersey. However, some local populations of deer are estimated to be as high as 78 deer per km^2 (NJ Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife 1999).

. . .

. . . Elevated deer densities have devastating impacts on the understory of forests and even the regeneration of the forest itself. Most wildflowers and herbs that grow in the forest understory are preferred forage of white-tailed deer and their disappearance is one of the earliest indicators of unbalanced deer densities. . . .

. . . When browsing on woody plants, deer show clear preferences, with sugar maple, white ash, oaks, yellow poplar, hemlock, white pine, and white cedar being a few of their favorites (Drake et al. 2002). This can lead to a complete alteration of the species composition of forests. In New England and the Upper Great Lakes, eastern hemlock has been undergoing decades of recruitment failure. . . .

If a forest or shrubland is subjected to continued elevated deer densities, the understory and mid-story layers will disappear. The long-term impact of such a scenario is the creation of “deer savannas” or “deer parks.” These aesthetically pleasing but biologically destitute areas are characterized by higher densities of ferns and grasses (species not preferred by deer) or park-like habitats of large trees completely lacking an understory that are clear and open beneath, allowing extensive visibility for long distances (Rooney 2001). Such drastic changes in forest structure also impact wildlife. deCalesta (1994) found that both species richness and abundance declined significantly for intermediate canopy nesting birds (nesting 0.5 m – 7.5 m) on heavily browsed sites with a number of species absent entirely from the browsed areas. . . .

Okay, so deer are a problem. But aren’t there solutions other than hunting? The animal rights activists are always talking about using birth control for deer, for example, won’t that work? Not according to the evil animal exploiters at the New Jersey Audubon Society (emphasis added),

Reproductive control including sterilization, contraception, and contragestation has also been proposed as a means to control overabundant deer populations. Reproductive control agents have been demonstrated on individual animals but an efficient, cost-effective means of delivering large-scale population control of deer is not yet available. Difficulty arises in identifying a cost-effective means of treating individual animals. Surgical sterilization is highly effective, but extremely costly, requiring capture and handling of each individual animal. Effective contragestation drugs like prostaglandin are known, but require precise delivery within the gestational cycle of does to allow effective abortion of the fetus. Contraceptive drugs are currently classified as experimentally by the FDA and not legal for widespread use in the U.S. Safety concerns about drug impacts on deer meat are also slowing advancement of these drugs. Contraceptive and contragestation drugs carry a per animal cost between $430 and $1000 per animal per treatment with a need to retreat individual animals annually (Peck and Stahl 1997, Schantz et al. 2001).

Reproductive controls can be effective when used on a closed or nearly closed deer population, with little or no ingress. For example, reproductive control may be effective on captive herds or in small, self-contained urban parks generally lacking corridors connecting the park to other potential habitat and deer populations. However, when reproductive control methods are used on deer populations that are already creating overbrowsing problems, they will not be successful without a companion strategy to lower the current deer herd to levels compatible with local ecosystem health. Urban and suburban deer experience extremely low annual mortality rates, increased longevity and high birth rates. An effective reproduction control program would have to be paired with an initial population reduction in order to meet restoration objectives (Nielson et al. 1997).

So what’s the solution? The New Jersey Audubon Society endorses hunting provided that it is coupled with policies to sustain deer populations at a level that takes into account the biodiversity issues it raises in its report, rather than following policies that seek to maximize deer population in the state,

Because regulated deer hunting generates revenue through license sales, it can be a cost-effective and efficient means for deer population management. However, the effectiveness of deer control via regulated hunting is contingent upon a clear departure from traditional goals of “maximum sustained yield” and “biological carrying capacity” to a more biodiversity based objective. Wildlife management to facilitate hunting opportunities has been a key contributor to deer overpopulation. Traditional deer management centered for years on the maximum sustainable yield model. Under this form of management, deer populations are maintained from year-to-year at a level that produces maximum recruitment with the maximum number of animals available for hunters to harvest (McCullough 1984). The major problem with this method is that if deer herds are managed for maximum sustainable yield, they are being maintained well above relative deer density levels associated with sustaining biodiversity and timber productivity and regeneration (deCalesta and Stout 1997).

So, in the end, the New Jersey Audubon Society’s endorsement of hunting is guarded. Yes, it concedes, hunting is an efficient method to reduce the deer population. But, the New Jersey Fish and Game Commission has to stop managing deer in such a way that encourages the deer population to reach levels that are harmful to other species even if deer themselves are below the state’s carrying capacity.

Stuart Chaifetz, Director of New Jersey’s Animal Protection PAC, fired back a lame non-sequitur that said the Audubon Society “had no standing to demonize deer when they themselves bear responsibility for the destruction of thousands of trees.”

In Chaifetz’s world, because the New Jersey Audubon Society supported a 2002 plan to clear-cut 125 acres in a South Jersey forest, its complaints about the effect of white-tailed deer in the state are not credible. Chaifetz wrote an op-ed responding to the New Jersey Audubon Society in which he wrote,

How many birds were exterminated when all those magnificent trees were torn down and pulverized? How many animals were crushed under the massive weight of the bulldozers that devastated that once glorious forest? All this environmental destruction was done in the name of promoting hunting and Audubon was credited for helping make it happen. For them to declare ware on deer is one of the most obscene forms of hypocrisy imaginable.

Chaifetz — not surprisingly — leaves out quite a bit of information from his rant.

The development he complains about split environmentalists with the Sierra Club opposing, and the New Jersey Audubon Society, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and Nature Conservancy supporting it. The idea was that prior to European colonization of the area, this several hundred acres of forest had actually been a grassy savanna. Fire suppression over the past couple centuries had led it to become forested.

The project aimed to restore a portion of the area back to a savanna on the hypothesis that it might provide habitat for rare plants and butterflies, such as the endangered frosted elfin butterfly.

Hunters supported the plan because it would potentially lead to more quail in the region for hunting, and forestry experts supported it to create a fire break after a 2002 fire that in the region.

At a minimum, Chaifetz embarrasses himself by depicting the New Jersey Audubon Society as rapacious developers who wanted to increase the deer population with the 2002 clear-cut project.

And what does Chaifetz propose to solve New Jersey’s deer problem,

1. The immediate cessation of all Council and Division programs to produce food for deer. This includes all clear-cutting projects.

2. Hunters must not only become a minority on the Council, but must be removed from positions of authority within the Division. Without this vital reform, nothing will ever change.

3. Biologist working for the Division, who have lost their credibility because of their extreme pro-hunting stance, should be replaced by modern-day biologists who are objective and care more for doing science than selling licenses.

4. The scientific foundation for non-lethal reproductive control is real and workable — but only if the state chooses to put the effort into making it happen. We live in the 21st century with all the technological and scientific advanced that were promised at hand. Better we should embrace this instead of turning shotgun shells and arrows that cripple as many as they kill.

We put a man on the moon, isn’t it obvious that non-lethal reproductive methods must be efficient? And Chaifetz complains about others who lack objectivity!

It is also interesting that shooting deer is apparently cruel and not sufficiently “21st century”, but starving deer to death (or forcing them to even more intensively stress the forest understory) by the sudden suspension of food is perfectly acceptable. Ah, those compassionate animal rights activists.


New Jersey hunters get an unlikely ally. Concord Monitor, March 20, 2005.

Cutting down trees may preserve species. Kirk Moore, Asbury Park Press, August 13, 2002.

AP-PAC’s Response to Audubon and the Slaughter of Deer. Stuart Chaifetz, March 22, 2005.

NJÂ’s Forest Health Is Threatened; Immediate Action Needed. Press Release, New Jersey Audubon Society, March 2005.

Forest Health and Ecological Integrity: Stressors and Solutions (PDF). New Jersey Audubon Society, March 2005.

New Jersey Supreme Court Decision Effectively Ends Bear Hunt, But Still Activists Unhappy

In February the New Jersey Supreme Court made a ruling about the powers of different wildlife agencies in that state that effectively ended any possibility of a bear hunt. But animal rights activists found little else to celebrate in the decision.

New Jersey’s Fish and Game Council had approved and schedule a bear hunt that was to take place the week of December 6, 2004. They scheduled the bear hunt despite the fact that the Commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection opposed the hunt, maintaining that the DEP Commissioner’s approval was not necessary to hold the hunt.

In February the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled, in fact, that the DEP commissioner had final authority over a black bear hunt derived from his general statutory power to approve or disapprove comprehensive statewide policies that affect the black bear population, and statutory language that made it clear the Fish and Game Council’s policies were “subject to the approval of the [DEP] commissioner.”

Since the DEP commissioner has long been opposed to a black bear hunt, the hunt was canceled and is unlikely to return anytime soon.

But other than the black bear hunt, this ruling simply won’t change anything else. As longtime New Jersey anti-hunting activist Stuart Chaifetz noted in a letter sent out under the auspices of the Animal Protection PAC (emphasis added),

In order for the Commissioner to veto the Council, he or she needs to be in disagreement with the Council’s policy. This happened with the bear hunt because we made [former New Jersey Governor Jim] McGreevey’s life hell, and there was no way he wanted to go through that again (kudos to all of you who never relented in your activism, whether it was by calling, writing, or disrupting the former Gov’s events). The catch is that, save for the bear issue, [DEP Commissioner Bradley] Campbell isn’t in conflict with the Council over any other species. In fact, at the hearing for the Sunday bowhunting bill, Campbell sent a letter stating he was in favor of the damn thing.

. . .

While we rejoice that the Council has suffered another unprecedented blow (as they did when we set the first non-hunter on the Council 2000) there are still years of brutality ahead. Now, more than ever, we need to continue our growth as a political force so that we may one day be able to wield the power the Supreme Court has given us today.

The full text of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision can be read here(PDF file).


U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance v. N.J. Department of Environmental Protection. New Jersey Supreme Court, Decided February 28, 2005.

Supreme Court Ruling – Another Victory Against the Hunters. Stuart Chaifetz, E-mail, February 28, 2005.

New Jersey Activists Resurrect Animal Protection PAC

In the wake of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision canceling that state’s planned bear hunt, Stuart Chaifetz and other animal rights activists in that state have resurrected New Jersey Legislative Action for Animals and renamed it the Animal Protection PAC.

According to a press release announcing the reactivation of the PAC,

The Animal Protection PAC will be the command base for the coming struggle against hunting. “We know that there is a large segment of our population who love animals in New Jersey, ” states Stuart Chaifetz, director of the Animal Protection PAC. “Through unification and strength of numbers, our new political force will galvanize opposition to hunting. Our members will know which politicians are friends to animals – and which are not. Our goal is to have 50,000 members in our first year, and then double it in the next.”

What makes our strategy unique is that we will be reaching out to all those people who have never joined an animal protection organization before. When Rutgers University (which is pro-hunting) surveyed the public’s attitudes toward deer, they asked a loaded question with the obvious intent of embarrassing anti- hunters, but which backfired: 50% of their respondents agreed that “the life of an animal is as sacred as a human life.”

“When you consider how compelling that poll-statement was,” states Chaifetz, “and the
monumental potential for a political force. Our mission is as simple as it is powerful – to reach NJ’s citizens who are against hunting, bring them under one banner, and turn all these individuals into a singular force of political might.”

Chaifetz sent out an e-mail in late January covering the successes of the group’s first two months,

It has been a little over a month since we created the PAC, and in this time we’ve had articles written about us in four newspapers [FOUR!], two radio stations featured us on the news [TWO!], and letters to the editor appeared in six of the state’s major daily newspapers [SIX!]. We’ve also raised more than $2,600, most from small donations, and our first round of advertisements ran last week in the Courier-Post.

That’s one might juggernaut — how will the hunters and their supporters ever hope to overcome a group that can get letters to the editor published in six state newspapers remains a mystery.

Hey, Stuart, now you can add that you were mentioned on the most popular anti-animal rights web sites. Today letters-to-the-editor and a handful of media mentions, tomorrow the world!


The Animal Protection PAC. Stuart Chaifetz, E-Mail, January 24, 2005.

Announcing A New Political Action Committee To Fight Hunting And Animal Abuse In New Jersey. Animal Protection PAC, Press Release, December 6, 2004.

Stuart Chaifetz Not Happy about Proposed Merger Between HSUS and Fund for Animals

New Jersey-based animal rights activist Stuart Chaifetz distributed an e-mail in October decrying talks of a merger between the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States. Chaifetz’s argument boils down to the fact that he doesn’t consider the HSUS to be a true animal rights group.

According to Chaifetz,

The clear and overwhelming facts are that HSUS’s views on hunting are in opposition to those of the Fund for Animals. This is no ambiguous issue; I’ve dealt with both the Fund and HSUS for more than a decade, and my love for the former is equal of my disdain for the latter. Therefore, to have either the Fund dissolved directly into the HSUS, or to have the Fund become some appendage or affiliate, creates a serious conflict based on both philosophy and action.

Chaifetz goes on to cite a specific example — HSUS’ role, or lack thereof, in New Jersey’s black bear hunt,

New Jersey Governor James McGreevey defended his decision to hold last years black bear hunt by saying that he was working with HSUS on a birth control plan; obviously he was using HSUS and the “humane” card for political cover. I reached out to Wayne Pacelle, who now leads HSUS, and implored him to join with us (we had our own sterilization plan) and state that if the Governor held the hunt we would not work with him on reproductive control. The point, which I explained to Wayne, was that by removing McGreevey’s political cover, we undercut his strength and deliver a blow that could shake him and may, with all other efforts, force an end to the hunt.

The response I got back was “we do not want to burn any bridges.” HSUS did not change their position, and neither did McGreevey. Carnage followed. I do not know that if HSUS had done what we asked, it would have changed anything, and therefore I do not cast blame for the hunt upon them. What I do know, and what everyone who care as about wild animals must know, is that HSUS acted not on behalf of the bears, but of their own political benefit; they would not risk offending the Governor. To not risk offending is to capitulate before the battle has even begun. To not risk is to condemn wild animals with no hope of appeal. HSUS will never risk. The Fund has and would, but soon the Fund, as it is now, may be no more.

Stuart’s got a point there. I’m sure that if Pacelle had went to McGreevey with an ultimatum — stop the hunt or we won’t work with you on the birth control plan — McGreevey would have waited all of 30 seconds before laughing in his face. Too bad Pacelle didn’t take Chaifetz’s advice.

I haven’t been following this apparent merger talk, but I do have a suggestion for HSUS. Since a combined HSUS/Fund organization will be a major undertaking, why not try a blast from the past and bring back David Wills to help run it. After all, if a whale can survive long after its circulatory system has failed, why can’t Wills make a return from the dead as well?


In Defense of the Fund for Animals — and Against the Merger with HSUS. Stuart Chaifetz, October 2004.

Stuart Chaifetz's Letter to John Kerry

Anti-hunting activist Stuart Chaifetz recently posted an open letter to presumptive Democrat Party presidential nominee John Kerry. After a rambling few paragraphs about Ralph Nader and Florida, Chaifetz gets to the heart of the matter — Kerry is cruel for hunting,

On the subject of the slaughter of the innocent, tell me, why it is that Democrats feel they must prove their “manliness” by carting guns and shooting small animals?

Back in December, Vice-President Cheney went on a hunting trip in Pennsylvania and shot 70 farm-raised birds. This caused a great controversy, and certainly was an opportunity for you to show how different you were. Instead, what we saw was your own dark desire to kill. The Washington Post recorded how you love to hunt, kill and gut animals such as deer, duck and quail. The focus of the article, however, was on doves.

You probably thought this was a cute way to show how “tough” you were. Here is the very symbol of peace, the dove, and John Kerry not only likes to blow them apart, but eat them as well.

I am tempted to drift into deep sarcasm about this, but I’d rather leave you with the image of one single airborne dove, her dark eyes set against pillowy white feathers, turned, in a blast of gun shot, into a falling package of crimson gore. And there, waiting for her, is John Kerry, smiling.

One would think that, since you were shot in Vietnam, you would never want to inflict such pain into any other living being. Sadly, we see that you do it not only for pleasure, but for some political gain as well. Bush and Cheney are the preferred of the gun-lover and animal-killer. Once again you chase unwilling votes while losing so many more.

Somehow I doubt that Kerry is all that concerned about losing the ridiculously small number of people who might have voted for him if he was not a hunter, especially compared to the significant number of rural voters whose votes he will need far more of in order to have a chance at defeating Bush in November.


An Open Letter to John Kerry. Stuart Chaifetz, May 3, 2004.

McGreevey Lied, Bears Died?

During Democrat James McGreevey’s successful run for the governorship of New Jersey, McGreevey said he supported a five-year moratorium on the hunting of bears. As governor, however, McGreevey did not attempt to interfere with the New Jersey Fish and Game Council to reinstate a bear hunt this year in order to control the population of bears in the state.

In the ensuing hunt, 328 bears were killed. Under New Jersey law, the governor does not have the ability to revoke or stop a hunt directly, but he could have used his political clout and influence to try to forestall the hunt if he had wanted to. Then-New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman did just that in 2000 to help stop a planned bear hunt.

Animal rights activist, not surprisingly, are angry with McGreevey for apparently changing his mind about whether a bear hunt was necessary and have ratcheted up the rhetoric against him. For example, a press release from the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance and the Bear Education and Research Group said,

In an attempt to climb out of the dismal pit that is his approval ratings, Governor James E. McGreevey is unveiling a new slogan for the state of the state address: “Promises Made, Promises Kept.”

“Sounds nice”, states Stuart Chaifetz of NJARA, “but it’s as false as the promises he made. This is a man who promised not to allow bear hunting, and yet a mere month ago he allowed the slaughter of 328 bears.”

It is important to understand that this was not just a campaign promise, but a major reason why tens of thousands of people worked for his election and voted for him.

“He not only lied”, states Lynda Smith of the Bear Group, “he stole our votes. The reality is that since he lied to us about the bears, he’ll lie about anything.”

Since the Governor is looking for a new slogan, Here’s one that is at least honest: “McGreevey Lied, Bears Died.”

In December about 100 anti-bear hunt activists gathered at Wawayanda State and carried signs referring to McGreevey with language like “Adolf McGreevey” while chanting “Never Again!”


Promise – Broken. Governor McGreevey’s New Slogan Is Worst Form of Hypocrisy. Press Release, New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance/BEAR Group, January 2004.