PRINCETON, N.J. — New Year's Eve may be a time when bleary-eyed revelers report pink-elephant sightings, but the mayor of this township saw deer. Again.
In fact, Mayor Phyllis Marchand says she and other residents in this 16-square-mile township see them all the time and in such great number that they have to beep their car horns when pulling into their driveways to mosey the animals along.
"In the last couple of years, we've had deer go through windows on Witherspoon Street, one through the window of a barbershop and one went through a shopping center window," she said on Tuesday. "When you go to bed in Princeton you don't count sheep, you count deer."
That will continue to be the case until a hearing can be held in the next few weeks on a court order temporarily blocking the township's deer population control program that was scheduled to begin its second year.
Animal rights advocates won the restraining order in state Superior Court on Sunday on the grounds that the methods for killing the deer were dangerous and cruel. Carl J. Mayer, a wealthy gadfly and occasional unsuccessful candidate for office who filed the suit, called it an "an audacious legal gambit."
Judge Andrew J. Smithson blocked the township and its animal control contractor, White Buffalo Inc., from killing the 400 deer the township hoped to have slaughtered for food by April.
Last year, hunters used high-powered rifles with silencers to shoot deer lured to a feeding area. This year, others were to be caught with nets while they fed at bait sites, and killed with bolts fired into their heads.
Mayer and his lawyer, Bruce Afran, told a small group of reporters on Monday that the use of rifles to shoot the deer was dangerous to residents and that the so-called net-and-bolt method was cruel.
"The stench of death and danger was descending on the town, and we knew we had to act," Mayer said.
The township culled 324 deer last winter without any human injuries, producing 12,000 pounds of venison for soup kitchens, Marchand said. She added that the township hoped to kill 400 more this year to reduce a herd of 1,600 whose numbers have contributed to hundreds of deer-car accidents a year, depleted natural resources for other wildlife, presented the danger of spreading Lyme disease and damaged residential plantings.
"We initiated this program because we have many, many more deer than we can possibly live with comfortably," the mayor said.