The latest salvo fired in the debate over the killing of Brigantine's red foxes is a petition drive started by a local woman to stop the Department of Environmental Protection from trapping and killing the animals.

The DEP contracts with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to catch and kill the foxes to protect the endangered piping plover. The DEP estimates that there are only about 100 pairs of piping plover shore birds left in New Jersey, while the red fox is plentiful. The foxes hunt and eat the birds and their eggs as they nest in the island's state-owned North Brigantine Natural Area.

Some Brigantine residents claim that the DEP is setting traps to snare and kill the male red foxes, leaving the mother and pup foxes to starve while waiting for the male who is not coming back to return with food.

The petition points out that the red fox is an important predator of rats and mice and suggests that the DEP's hunt has already decimated the red fox population in Brigantine.

In a controversial decision in 2016, the New Jersey Game Council allowed the use of "foot encapsulating" traps, which opponents say fit the description of the steel-jaw traps banned in New Jersey since 1984. Some residents claim they have seen traps, snares, or even poisoned foxes....but one thing is sadly for certain...most of the foxes are gone from the island.

We, the tax-paying citizens, deserve to have a voice in the decision making process rather than it being hidden from us until all the foxes have been killed. We deserve the right to be part of the solution. Stop killing our foxes, NOW!

As of Monday night, there were 883 of the 1,000 local signatures being sought, according to her posting on Care2 Petitions.

Sources: Real Brigantine/Care2 Petitions/Press of Atlantic City