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Ridgewood Vet: Offer To Sterilize Deer Still Stands

Dr. Dean J. Cerf with his beloved late dog, Willow.
Dr. Dean J. Cerf with his beloved late dog, Willow. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Dean J. Cerf

SADDLE RIVER, N.J. — Veterinarian Dean Cerf of Saddle River has a deer management offer for the borough that’s tough to turn down.

He’s made it before. He stands by it now.

It’s even a privately funded proposal.

Now it’s a matter of waiting to see whether the borough council approves controlling the deer population by sterilizing – not hunting.

Last week Saddle River residents voted, 715-457, in favor of using non-lethal means only.

“The people have spoken out strongly for non-lethal,” said Cerf, director of Ridgewood Veterinary Hospital in Ridgewood and Midland Park.

“Now it’s a matter of our implementing the program and seeing if it works.”

No one can guarantee it will, he said, but trying it first is the right thing to do.

“Let’s do this,” Cerf said, “before we consider letting somebody run around with a bow and arrow and shoot an arrow through an animal’s belly and let them bleed out for three or four hours.”

His proposal has three components:

First, there has to be an aerial deer count conducted.

Second, females will be vaccinated with a contraceptive, rendering 60 percent of them infertile for one to two years.

Once vaccinated, each doe will get an ear tag, color coded to year, so it’s known when she needs to be revaccinated.

Third, select males will get vasectomies, which entails darting bucks with a sedative.

Built into Cerf’s proposal are ways to eliminate barriers to its implementation.

For starters, only a qualified individual can get the necessary state license to implement a sterilization program. As a veterinarian, Cerf qualifies.

Then there’s the issue of cost.

As chairman of the Louis and Celia Nussman Foundation for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Cerf already has had $15,000 appropriated for the effort in Saddle River.

“It’s in the checkbook ready to go,” he said.

Additionally, the nonprofit’s trustees already have agreed to fund an additional $10,000 every year for the next five years, provided the money is used for non-lethal means.

Last comes the issue of having professionals administer the vaccinations and do the vasectomies. Cerf has volunteered his services. So have some of his veterinarian colleagues.

They’ve also agreed to pay for the aerial surveys and buy all medicine equipment necessary, including the vaccines.

“There is no obstacle here,” Cerf said, “unless you don’t believe in a non-lethal means of controlling deer.”

His proposal can become a reality with approval from the Saddle River Council and then the state of New Jersey.

The council takes up the matter again Dec. 19.

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