Township introduces ANTI-Fox Trapping ordinance
Sniffed out from the above paywall article
By MIKE CONDON Staff Writer Nov 20, 2018
HARDING TWP. The Township Committee unanimously passed, on first reading, an ordinance which will essentially ban the trapping and killing of foxes township-wide in an effort to stop the spread of Lyme disease.
“This is all about public health and that’s all it’s about. Does the municipality have a responsibility to project the health and welfare of its residents? Yes it does,” said Committeeman Nicolas Platt, who brought the ordinance to the floor for an introduction.
Resident Hal Schaff spoke out against the planned law, however, saying that it’s an anti-hunting move which infringes on the rights of private property owners.
Ultimately, the committee moved the ordinance forward, with a second reading and public hearing scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10. As written, within three years, the governing body will review the effectiveness of the ordinance, but if no action is taken within that three-year period to extend it, it will sunset, or expire, in three years.
Platt argued that preventing the spread of Lyme disease is the key reason why the ordinance is necessary. He said fox and coyote are one of the main and most effective predators which hunt the white-footed mouse; one of the primary Lyme disease carriers.
“We are trying to reduce the instances of Lyme disease by protecting a predator of the white-footed mouse,” Platt said. “These foxes are already subject to being hit by cars, by being poisoned, by dying of old age and mange. We are trying to eliminate just one of the fatalities of a critter that is helping us control the population of the white-footed mouse,” he said.
Just their presence, Platt said, prevents the mice from foraging openly.
“This township has done all it possibly can to bring the deer population under control, but the deer is not really part of the Lyme disease cycle,” Platt said, citing several published research articles on the subject, including those in The New York Times.
“We live right next to 7,800 acres of a wildlife preserve,” he said, referring to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
“The federal government has no trapping policy. Harding Township is near enormous land masses. We have more mice than any other community,” said Platt, who added that the committee received a letter from the township’s Board of Health citing similar concerns for protecting foxes.
He said New Jersey is third in incidences of Lyme disease, and said Morris County has the largest amount of Lyme disease incidents in the state.
Although the ordinance was passed on first reading, Township Committee members Nanette DiTosto and Dev Modi said they would like to see more data to back up the claims regarding the fox and the mice.
“We are passing this without a complete set of data,” Modi said. “We have some data, but I don’t think we have the complete picture. I’d like to see some monitoring, and some data collection. I support this ordinance as long as we have a sunset provision,” he said.
Platt said hundreds of articles and stories have been done on the subject, but said it’s impractical for Harding to create its own set of data.
We already have the evidence that the white-footed mouse is the major food source of fox and coyote. The data collection has already been done by major research centers,” Platt said.
“We don’t have the manpower in Harding to do our own studies, but studies show that one fox eats 1,200 mice per year,” he said.
“Does the right to trap take precedence over public health? Governing bodies around the nation always must ask themselves ‘what is in the best interest of the community they serve’. Harding answered that question by taking an important step forward towards combating a known cause of Lyme disease. It is something we will gladly defend and the opportunity to do so,” said Platt.
Committeeman Tim Jones also said he supports the plan.
“Harding Township has a long history of allowing nature to handle itself. This ordinance demonstrates that the red fox belongs in Harding. It has a role. It is a native North American species that has had to adjust to its habitat being disrupted by development, yet the red fox has flourished in open fields, stream corridors and dense hedgerows,” Jones said.
“It is in these environments in Harding that this species provides an incalculable benefit to its residents – by devouring so many of the small rodents that help ferry tick-borne diseases into our own backyards. The ordinance also calls for he governing body to address the situation three years from now to ensure that this is the correct approach for Harding Township.”
The committee also honored Patrolman David Selecky for quick action, and lots of keen investigation in solving a residential burglary which occurred on Aug. 28.
According to the resolution honoring the officer, Selecky facilitated a multi-jurisdictional investigation which included several Harding officers, the Bernards Township Police Department and the sheriff’s office.
The victim of the burglary, who identified herself as Stefani Werring, also spoke, saying that she and her young daughters returned home from grocery shopping to find their home being actively burglarized.
“I’d like to thank Officer Selecky for his unyielding efforts every step of the way,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion.
“Each and every member of the Harding Police Department had been meticulous and resolute in finding the suspects, and I can’t be more proud to live in a community where you get the job done the way you did. You restored our sense of peace that we didn’t think could be regained,” Werring said.
In a related matter, Mayor Chris Yates read a letter from former Mayor Lou Lanzerotti, who was not present at the meeting.
The letter commended Officer Matthew Hart for his handling of a political rally on Nov 2. which Lanzerotti said negatively affected access to the New Vernon Post Office and other nearby businesses.
Specifically, the rally featured Sen. Cory Booker, D- N.J., along with then-Congressional candidate and now Congresswoman-elect Mikie Sherrill and local Township Committee candidates Rhonda Allen and Kate Barry.
Resident Elaine McHale, who was at Monday night’s meeting, responded, however, saying things were neat and orderly, and said businesses were not negatively impacted. She also said police handled it well.