The deer in Fair Haven are well-fed.
That's because they're feasting from a well-tended community garden. Garden keepers tried to fence the white-tailed critters out of depleting their healthy produce with a 7-foot fence. That didn't work, though.
It was jumped with the same ease as a kid lifting a leg over a picket fence for one giant stag that was found muching contentedly square in the middle of it over the summer.
"With all our modern gardens, this area is a veritable smorgasbord for them," Mayor Ben Lucarelli said. "It's happening at the community garden and all over town. It's not just vegetables, either. Tulips are like crack to them. Where I live, about a week after the tulips come up, they're right out of the ground again because the deer eat them."
Garden members figure they need a 10-foot-high deer fence around the 56-plot garden to stave off the insatiable creatures. So they got together, including Fair Haven Fields Natural Area volunteers Judy and Dick Fuller, and presented a petition to the borough with 20 signatures on it to get the fencing up well before the veggies sprout.
Having the fencing by April, Judy Fuller said, will give more people impetus to join and get to the planting on time.
Amenable to what he said was a relatively low-cost situation with reimbursement to the borough, the mayor was good with the idea.
"We'll have the borough engineer size up the situation," Lucarelli said. "It's likely then that we can work out something where the town pays for it and the community garden fees reimburse us for it." There is a nominal fee for each plot which may be hiked a bit to absorb the fencing cost.
The deer fence in Shrewsbury is smaller and came it at a cost of just under $20,000, Lucarelli said, so, while Fair Haven's garden is larger, the cost will probably still be in that range and affordable for the borough to absorb until reimbursed.
The mayor said that the workers from Alabama Power, coming from a state where there's a lot of hunting, were amazed at the size of the deer they saw romping through Fair Haven Fields.
"That's because these deer are smart and well-fed," Lucarelli said. "Deer live an average of seven years. It's a very controversial issue, I realize. But there is no hunting here and that's why they are so abnormally large and abundant."
The deer population has increased markedly in the past decade in Fair Haven and the surrounding area. At one point, people were reporting that they saw them bounding through streets. Some attribute it to their dislocation with the advent of a lot of development in the area.
Monmouth County has a deer management program that raised the ire of animal lovers. A statement on the Web site says:
"Responsible land stewardship and resource protection require that wildlife and its habitat be managed for the benefit of all animals and plants.
"When the dominance or behavior of a particular species threatens the well being of others, active intervention is required.
"The growth and density of the State's deer population and its consumption of native plant materials that are vital to a healthy forest and as food and shelter to birds and small mammals constitute a problem requiring active intervention."
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