The Mercer County Park Commission will conduct a deer management program at Mercer County Park on select days from Oct. 27, 2018, through Feb. 16, 2019. This program is a method for reducing the overabundant deer herd in the park. This deer management program is open only to those licensed New Jersey hunters who were selected by the Park Commission to participate.
The Naturalist Division of the Park Commission has monitored the increasing deer population at Mercer County Park with conservative estimates of 104 deer per square mile. High deer populations have significant impacts, from increased automobile collisions to negative ecological consequences. Due to severe deer browse there has been a lack of regeneration of trees in the park, which has negatively affected the forest. In December 2017, 200 red oak seedlings were planted in various regions of the park by Naturalist staff. In June 2018, staff found that more than 75 percent of those seedlings had been eaten by the park’s local deer population; results of this study pose a threat to the overall forest health and habitat value for other wildlife.
The Park Commission has identified three regions in Mercer County Park that are projected to yield sufficient deer harvest numbers while minimizing the impact on park users: Oaks Golf (the two Mercer Oaks golf courses), Lake North (the wooded area between the Caspersen Rowing Center and the East Picnic Area on the north shore of Mercer Lake) and Lake South (the wooded areas between the lake’s southern shore and Paxson Avenue). Hunters will adhere to all state regulations regarding safety zones surrounding park buildings, playgrounds and facilities or parking areas – a 150-foot radius for bow hunting and a 450-foot radius for firearm hunting. All program activity will be limited to wooded areas with no activity taking place within a 75-foot perimeter of any marked trail. There is no shooting across park trails.
Firearms will only be used in the Oaks Golf and Lake North regions and only when those areas of the park are closed to the public. Mercer Oaks West will be closed in January, Mercer Oaks East will be closed in February and Lake North region will be closed Monday through Thursday, Dec. 3 through Feb. 9. No use of firearms will be permitted in the Lake South region. For a detailed overview and information regarding each region of the park, visit the Deer Management page on the Park Commission website, or click here.
Naturalist staff will work with hunters to promote the donation of venison to Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH), a nonprofit organization that works with butchers, hunters and food banks. Last year, deer harvested during the Park Commission’s management programs and donated to HHH produced 2,072 servings of protein. To continue this initiative, the Park Commission will work with HHH to set a donation goal of 7,400 servings of protein for this year’s programs.
A public information session regarding the Mercer County Park hunt will be held Thursday, Oct. 18, at the Mercer County Park Ice Skating Center beginning at 7 p.m.The information session will provide an overview of the program and additional information on the ecological benefits of this conservation method.
The Park Commission’s deer management programs are held annually to improve the health of forest ecosystems within the parks and in coordination with regional efforts to reduce the overpopulation of white-tailed deer in central New Jersey. The programs comply with all hunting regulations set by the State of New Jersey. To learn more about the project scope and benefits, please visit: https://mercercountyparks.org/#!/activities/deer-management.