The concluded with the elimination of 84 deer from Lenape Park in Cranford and Ash Brook reservation in Scotch Plains.
At in Cranford, nine hunters participated in the deer hunt. Lenape Park covers 403 acres, or about 0.63 square mile, in the townships of Cranford, Springfield and Union, the borough of Kenilworth and the town of Westfield.
"Those hunters are the most experienced of the 16 men who were selected to hunt in early March in the Watchung Reservation and in Passaic River Park in Summit," said Union County Spokesperson Sebastian D'Elia.
As scheduled, hunting occurred on five days, mornings and afternoons, D'Elia said. Though originally scheduled for Mondays only, the program was moved to Wednesday twice - once because of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and once because of inclement weather.
Here's a breakdown of the results of the Lenape Park hunt:
- A total of 63 deer were harvested from Lenape Park. Of those, 45 were does, with 29 of them being pregnant. The county initially hoped that hunters would remove about 125 deer from Lenape Park.
- A total of 18 males were harvested, of which none were antlered. "Hunters were not allowed to take antlered males, both to maximize population reduction by targeting females and to eliminate any perception of this being a sport hunt," D'Elia said.
No deer from Lenape Park were sent to the county’s butcher and no venison was sent to the Community FoodBank in Hillside. Lenape Park was hunted under regular hunting season rules, with the hunters being allowed to keep any deer they killed if they so desired, D'Elia explained.
The Deer Management program was intended to tackle the problem of deer overpopulation in Lenape Park in Cranford. Since 1995, marksmen in the county’s state-approved deer management program have reduced the population of white-tailed deer in the Watchung Reservation substantially. Last year, that effort was expanded to remove deer from portions of Passaic River Park in Summit. Union County has received complaints about deer-related impacts from residents around Lenape Park for several years, D'Elia said.
The ongoing Watchung Reservation/Passaic River Park program will operate under a Special Deer Management Permit, which requires that the venison be donated to a food bank. Butchering fees for the Lenape Park, Watchung Reservation and Passaic River hunts are budgeted together.
"The hunters from the Lenape hunt took all of the deer from that hunt and paid the butchering fees themselves in order to maximize the number of deer that can be removed in March from the Watchung Reservation, and the amount of venison that can be sent to the Community FoodBank," D'Elia added.
A total of seven members of the Oak Ridge Sportsmen’s Association were authorized to hunt in the Ash Brook Reservation. They hunted a total of 10 days (afternoons only), with between five and seven hunters participating each time.
The following is a breakdown of the :
- A total of 21 deer were harvested from the Ash Brook Reservation. Of those, nine deer were female and 12 were male. D'Elia said the county does not have a breakdown of those deer by age, or any information on how many bucks were antlered.
- A total of 16 deer were sent to the butcher contracted by Union County. Venison from those 16 deer was donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside.
"Cost accounting for these two programs will not be complete until after the Watchung Reservation portion of the deer management program concludes on or before March 9," D'Elia said. "However, the direct costs for bait, butchering and supplies to date amount to $1,440 for the Ash Brook program and $633 for the Lenape program."
According to the county spokesperson, the harvest numbers were about a third a what was expected at the Ash Brook Reservation and half of what was expected in Lenape Park, based on population density estimates developed from the results of spotlight counts conducted in April, 2011.
"In Lenape Park, there is significant evidence to suggest that the deer population in that park decreased since the spotlight counts due in part to mortality from Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease," D'Elia explained. "Equally significant, a group of at least three coyotes now living in Lenape Park probably killed some of the smaller deer and scared large numbers of deer out of the park into surrounding areas, including Nomahegan Park, Galloping Hill Golf Course, Echo Lake Park, Echo Lake Country Club and Fairview Cemetery."