At least 35 deer have been removed from Lenape Park since the Deer Management Program began Jan. 9, and hunters will return to the woods tonight to continue the hunt.
According to Union County Spokesman Sebastian D'Elia, a total of 35 deer have been "removed" from the county park so far. In addition, a total of seven deer have been killed at Ash Brook Reservation in Scotch Plains. Here's a breakdown of the results for Lenape Park in Cranford and Ash Brook Reservation in Scotch Plains.
At Lenape Park:
- Jan 9: Eight hunters harvested 22 deer.
- Jan. 18: Nine hunters culled nine deer.
- Jan. 25: eight hunters have killed four deer. Those hunters will be back in the woods tonight to continue the hunt.
That is a total of 35 deer removed in 2 1/2 days.
At Ash Brook Reservation in Scotch Plains:
- Jan. 19: Seven hunters harvested six deer.
- Jan. 20: Six hunters culled one deer.
- Jan. 21: Hunting was cancelled due to snow.
That is a total of seven deer removed so far. Hunting is expected to resume on Jan. 26.
According to D'Elia, the Deer Management program will, for the first time, tackle the problem of deer overpopulation in Lenape Park in Cranford. The county is hoping that hunters will remove about 125 deer from Lenape Park.
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 Cranford Environmental Commission, the Cranford Tree Advisory Board and the have all expressed concern for damage to and loss of landscape vegetation and a fear of Lyme disease. Browsing for food by large numbers of deer has caused a loss of forest understory, especially in Lenape Park and Nomahegan Park, and threatens the survival of the plant and animal communities that are important to the ecology of these parks.
In 2009, the township of Cranford asked that the county investigate the extent of deer overpopulation in Lenape Park and take the appropriate steps to reduce the deer herd. Forest ecologists recommend a density of 20 deer per square mile in a healthy hardwood forest and as low as five per square mile in a forest that has been heavily damaged by browsing. Spotlight counts conducted by the county in April of 2010 and April of 2011 showed deer densities in excess of 300 per square mile. An analysis completed by the county several weeks ago shows that roads bordering Lenape and Nomahegan Parks had some of the highest numbers of deer-car collisions in the county over the past year.
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.
The hunters may keep any deer carcasses that they harvest. All other deer will be processed at a USDA-approved butcher. Venison will be distributed to the needy and homeless through the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.