Hunting will soon be underway through a deer management program in efforts reduce the overabundant deer herd in the greater Mercer County region.
The Mercer County Park Commission’s deer management program will be conducted in Mercer County Park, Baldpate Mountain and Mercer Meadows on Sept. 10.
The Mercer County Park Commission oversees 7,000 acres of parkland. One of the largest regional threats to biodiversity of plants and animals in central New Jersey is the overabundance of white-tailed deer, according to the Commission.
An increased feeding on plants by the overpopulation of deer can jeopardize the native plants and forest health, according to the Commission.
Portions of Mercer County have been identified by wildlife biologists as having some of the highest deer populations in the state, according to the Commission.
According to 2021 population estimates for Hopewell Valley, the white-tailed deer population density was 109 deer per square mile, and 155 deer per square mile post-birthing, county officials said.
Biologists recommend a density of 20-to-25 deer per square mile to achieve and maintain a healthy forest, and 10-to-15 deer per square mile if the forest is already in degraded condition, according to county officials.
Hunters in the deer management program have donated 333 deer, the equivalent of 49,284 servings of venison, to county food shelters during the previous five years.
Deer Management Program
Bow hunting begins at parks on Sept. 10. Hunting is allowed Monday through Saturday until Feb. 18. Parks will remain open to the public during the bow hunting season.
Firearm hunting will begin at Baldpate Mountain and the area north of Mercer Lake at Mercer County Park starting Dec. 5 through Dec. 10, and every Wednesday through Saturday after that, which will go through Feb. 11.
All parks will have posted signage at parking areas and trail heads displaying the hunting schedule and closure dates as a reminder and notice to the public, according to county officials.
Park rangers will patrol the parks during closures to ensure public safety. Hunting is only permitted by those who have applied for and met all the requirements to participate in the program, according to county officials.
All hunting will have to be done from an elevated tree stand and hunters are not permitted to hunt from the ground.
The county has also instituted a 75-foot safety buffer on either side of all county-authorized trails in the parks within which no hunting activity may take place.
Those using the parks are reminded to stay on county-authorized trails only, wear bright colors and keep dogs on a leash at all times during bow hunting season. They are also asked to observe posted closure notices and to refrain from entering the park and areas posted during the closures.