UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Union County Department of Parks and Recreation has released details of its annual Deer Management Program, which began Monday, Jan. 4, in six county parks and one municipal park. The program will operate in the Watchung Reservation, the Summit portion of Passaic River Park, Ash Brook Reservation, Lenape Park, Nomahegan Park, Oak Ridge Park and the Hawk Rise Sanctuary.
The Union County Deer Management Program will operate Mondays from Jan. 4 to Feb. 12. When there is a holiday on a Monday, the program moves to Wednesday. In the event of inclement weather on other Mondays, the hunting activity will be moved to Wednesday that week. If Wednesday brings inclement weather, the hunting will be moved to Friday. Hunters will be in the parks from 5:30 a.m. until after dark, but shooting may occur only during daylight hours.
Browsing for food by large numbers of deer has caused a loss of forest understory in park areas throughout the northeastern United States. The overpopulation of deer threatens the survival of the plant and animal communities that are important to the ecology of these parks.
Forest ecologists recommend a density of 20 deer per square mile in a healthy hardwood forest and as low as five deer per square mile in a forest that has been heavily damaged by browsing. Spotlight counts conducted by the county in April and May 2015 suggested 2015-2016 overwintering densities of about 47 deer per square mile in the Watchung Reservation; 61 per square mile in and around Ash Brook Reservation and Oak Ridge Park; 73 deer per square mile in the Hawk Rise Sanctuary; and more than 200 per square mile in and around Lenape and Nomahegan Parks.
An analysis completed in 2011 showed that roads bordering Lenape and Nomahegan Parks had some of the highest numbers of deer-car collisions in the county.
Forty marksmen have been chosen by the county from among experienced, licensed hunters.
Eighty-five percent of the hunters have previously participated in Union County’s program, and all are serving on a voluntary basis. For further information, visit http://ucnj.org/parks-recreation/wildlife-management/deer/ or contact the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation at 908-527-4900.