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The White-Tailed Deer Problem in New Jersey

The Time is Now for a Comprehensive Deer Management Plan in Hopewell Valley

The Time is Now for a Comprehensive Deer Management Plan in Hopewell Valley

There is a simple truth to all of us who live in in Hopewell Valley — we have too many deer. While deer are beautiful creatures to observe, their overabundance has a detrimental ecological impact to which there is no simple solution.

Deer naturally thrive in our Garden State, where they can continually feed on plants, flowers, forest understory and farm crops. Other than humans, they have virtually no predators.

Unfortunately, we have made a perfect habitat for deer, with forest edges, farm fields and homes that protect deer from hunters and feed them a diet more nutritious than a native forest.

As a result, Hopewell Valley is home to 105 deer per square mile, more than 10 times biologists’ recommendation of 10 per square mile for a healthy herd balance.

Why does the overpopulation of deer matter? Let’s start with our natural ecosystem. The layer of trees that grow beneath the forest canopy, but above the forest floor is called “understory.” For a forest to be healthy, it needs a robust understory. With the increase in deer over the last 50 years, native plants have declined, and invasive plants have taken root.

Deer also destroy landscaping. There is nothing worse than spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars on flowers and plants, only to have it all eaten overnight by a herd of deer. The landscape planting losses are difficult to control because many deer repellents are ineffective. Hungry deer have begun consuming plants previously deemed deer-resistant.

Even more devastating is the agricultural losses to farmers in New Jersey. According to Rutgers University, New Jersey growers reported that 70% of their crop losses from wildlife were due to deer. A report by the Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences reports the economic loss to high-value agricultural crops in New Jersey totals more than $15 million per year.

A dense population of deer also contributes overall to more cases of Lyme disease, since there is a correlation between increased populations of deer and increased populations of deer ticks.

Deer are also a public health risk due to the threat of car accidents. Anyone who has been in a car that collided with a deer knows the serious damage that can occur as well as the potential for injury to the vehicle’s occupants.

The Princeton Council has had an aggressive deer management plan in place for years, and Pennington Borough Council expects to take similar action.

We encourage the council to adopt a comprehensive deer management plan that includes hunting. Right now, when hunting does occur, it is often “trophy hunting” rather than “management hunting.” Trophy hunters kill mature male deer, or bucks, for their prized large antlers. This does not help with population control, and studies indicate it may even result in increased populations.

Management hunting requires time and money to be productive.

All of us are responsible for the deer overpopulation problem in how we live and utilize the land. It is our hope that all stakeholders will do their share to address the out-of-balance deer population in the state.

Lisa Wolff is the executive director of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. Email: lwolff@fohvos.org.

Keep Reading to Learn More:


Human Health Effects


Agricultural Damage


Ecological Damage




Political Positions


Lessons Learned

The New Jersey Farm Bureau, and the agricultural interests we represent, understand that people will have different ideas about the approach to this problem. But ultimately, we must identify immediate and viable solutions to mitigate the negative impact to agriculture, the environment, and human health caused by deer overpopulation.