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The White-Tailed Deer Problem in New Jersey

Understanding the Severely Out of Balance Deer Population

Understanding the Severely Out of Balance Deer Population

Working to improve ecosystem services has been both a career and a passion of mine.  I founded Steward Green, headquartered in Bridgewater, New Jersey, in 2008 to take conservation programs directly to landowners.  Our focus is on Habitat Regeneration, Wildlife Management, Bio-retention Solutions, and teaching FAA compliance for UAS (drone) pilots.

In 2019, I conducted an infrared drone survey commissioned by the New Jersey Farm Bureau of eight study areas encompassing more than 15,694 acres, or approximately 25 square miles in Atlantic, Burlington, Cumberland, Hunterdon/Mercer, Monmouth, Passaic, Somerset, and Warren counties.  We confirmed 2,558 deer or 104 deer per mi².

The survey found that deer densities per square mile are on the average of 7-10 times greater than safe and sustainable numbers.  In some areas, the deer density was over 20 times the proper deer density per square mile – 210 white-tailed deer per mi².  Experts believe deer density should be as low as 5-15 deer per mi². 

Many biologists, ecologists, and environmental experts, including myself, believe this situation demonstrates an ongoing deer emergency that will not improve without intervention that includes a science-based approach to ensure success.

The severely out of balance deer population leads to millions of dollars in economic loss from crop/landscape damage, automobile collisions, and disease in both animals and humans.  Deer are rapidly depleting habitats that threaten New Jersey’s forest lands and other native wildlife.  Ground nesting birds, such as Ovenbirds and grouse, have much reduced habitat in some areas because the overabundant deer population have eaten it.

Because deer have no natural predators in New Jersey, the white-tailed deer’s current population continues to grow out of control. New Jersey needs a rational policy for adequately maintaining the state’s deer population. The approach we have in place now is not working.

As past Director of Research and Natural Resources at Duke Farms, I enacted a deer management program in 2004 that was successful and is still managed to this date.  The changes were not easy in the beginning.  We partnered with the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife to implement effective strategies beyond traditional hunting programs. With 250-300 deer per mi² at Duke Farms, we met our 5-year goal of 10-15 per mi² one year early and put over 15 tons of venison in the foodbanks of NJ, feeding thousands who were in need of food donations.

Today when you visit Duke Farms, you will see something you do not usually see in New Jersey: hundreds of thousands of new trees, understory in the woodlands, and healthy habitats restored.

NJ must act now to control the deer overpopulation.  It can be done.

Gene Huntington RLA, LEED AP
Ecological Land Planner
Steward Green


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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.