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168 West State Street,
Trenton, New Jersey

Phone: 609-393-7163
Fax: 609-393-7535
Website:  www.njfb.org

Recognized Ecologists and Land Professionals Agree Deer Overpopulation in New Jersey is an Emergency

Crop loss and forest degradation are caused by lack of proper deer management in New Jersey.

Trenton, New Jersey— New Jersey Farm Bureau believes a strong deer policy enacted through legislation that addresses the dire overpopulation conditions in New Jersey must be initiated immediately. The destruction to crops and our forests caused by deer will not disappear without intervention.   As one step toward much-needed mitigation, NJFB supports the package of forest stewardship bills currently moving through the Legislature to properly manage the state’s forest resources.

Duke Farms and the NJ Conservation Foundation last week held a webinar on The Duke Farms restoration project, Managing Deer to Restore Forests and Sequester Carbon, that included over 100 participants from across the state, including landowners, conservation groups and wildlife and forestry experts.

Duke Farms recognized that their 2,700 acres of farm and forest land was in dire condition because of the local deer overpopulation. Tom Almendinger, director of Natural Resources and AgroEcology, left no ambiguity when he pointed to the two decades of deer overpopulation and the profound implications it had on plants and wildlife. Duke Farms historically had a deer density of 300 per square mile, compared to a healthy number of 5-15 per square mile.

“By reducing the size of the deer population through controlled mitigation, we were able to positively affect the health of the deer herd, repair the forest and farmland, capture greenhouse gases, and limit invasive plants,” said Almendiger.  “In order to have a lasting effect, 40% of the herd must be eliminated each year until the recommended population is reached.”

Jay Kelly, Professor of Biology and Environmental Science at Raritan Valley Community College, talked about the 300 forest parcels he and his students have studied since 2014 in central and northern New Jersey.  Kelly sees Duke Farm’s aggressive deer project as a success.  Kelly commented, “native species regenerating are pushing out invasive plants, and deer are now healthier and more robust. I am pleased that ground-nesting birds are returning, as well as chipmunks and bunnies who are breeding.”

The professionals all point to an immediate need to change the paradigm to handle deer overpopulation and deforestation. The shift in thinking must use tactics that contributed to the success of Duke Farm but advance a diversity of efforts to limit the deer overpopulation in the entire state. As Jen Rogers, Steward of Mercer County Parks, said, “We cannot have forest regeneration without managing deer. Deer control is everything from nutrients to plants to insects.”

Marty McCue, regional manager of Ecological Construction and former director of NJ Fish and Wildlife agrees.  “We are in the perfect storm of conditions in the Garden State that contributes to this problem. We must change the culture and embrace the most cost-effective mitigation effort for deer management. Lack of access to open space is at nearly 40 percent of the state, which hinders hunters from culling significant portions of the herd.”  While he understands hunting is not always welcome, the immediate need must outweigh the emotions.  “Conservation and hunting must work together to move forward,” he said.

There are bills currently moving through the Legislature regarding deer management and forest stewardship.  Now is the time for New Jersey as a state to responsibly steward its lands as well.

Peter Furey, executive director of the NJ Farm Bureau, said Duke Farms has demonstrated that science-based deer management can benefit the environment. “We need to take what was learned from Duke Farms and apply it across the state before it’s too late,” Furey said.