City Council discussed the removal of foxes in the state-owned North Brigantine Natural Area at its meeting March 7.

The discussion began after council authorized a contract with Animal Control of South Jersey.

Animal control will work with the city for two years at $1,225 per month, but its jurisdiction would not include the natural area now that the state has taken control of it.

Councilman Vince Sera said one issue that has continued to raise concern after the city’s meeting with the state Department of Environmental Protection last month is the way in which the DEP plans to reduce the threat of foxes to protect piping plover nests.

Sera said he believed the foxes should not be overlooked for the protection of shorebirds.

“In one instance you have a state agency who is advocating for the protection of our environment for the protection of the wildlife that lives out there, and in the next instance is talking about how they’re just eradicating another,” Sera said.

Although the state has control of the area, Sera still suggested council pass a resolution announcing their opposition of this predator control.

“There’s a humane way to handle the situation, and the DEP needs to be held accountable,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Andy Simpson, who led the meeting in Mayor Phil Guenther’s absence, said he has serious concerns about claims the state uses poison to eliminate foxes because it could become a hazard to other animals and people who access the beaches.

“It’s uncalled for, and I would ask our solicitor to not allow anyone to transport poison across our beaches to kill or mame anything,” Simpson said.

The DEP denies this claim and states it does not allow poison as a method of predator control.

“DEP does not, and never has, approved the poisoning of fox as a method of control,” DEP Press Officer Lawrence Hajna wrote in a statement. “The Division of Fish and Wildlife only approves of humane control methods. This is important in a protected natural area where fox can be a significant threat to endangered species, in this case shorebirds. Fox can also spread diseases such as rabies to other animals and people.”

The Press of Atlantic City has reported that a representative of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said predators account for about half of piping plover deaths at the Feb. 27 DEP meeting.

The DEP held a public meeting Feb. 27 to discuss driving restrictions it has put in place there to protect the piping plover.

The state now issues Mobile Sport Fishing Permits that allow vehicles on the beach for fishing only, and officials said no more than 500 will be sold for the entire year, or 75 per day. In addition, vehicle access to the north-end beach will be prohibited from May 15 to Sept. 15.

In other business, council approved a Atlantic County Improvement Authority Community Development Block Grant 2017 award of about $30,000 that will be used to replace the corners along Beach Avenue with accessible raps.

Outgoing City Manager Ed Stinson said the city has also received a municipal aid grant of $70,000 from the state Department of Transportation to continue the project. He said the city’s goal is to finish the curbs on the west portion of Beach Avenue.

This was Stinson's last council meeting before he starts his position as superintendent of public works and city engineer in Ventnor on March 19. Roxanne Tosto, who has worked as Brigantine’s chief financial officer, will begin as acting city manager effective March 16.

Council’s next meeting is 6 p.m. March 21.

Stay informed! Sign up to receive top headlines from Atlantic County delivered to your inbox.