The Mercer County Park Commission will conduct a deer management program at Mercer County Park, Mercer Meadows, and Baldpate Mountain beginning Saturday, Sept. 10. This program is meant to reduce the overabundant deer herd in the greater Mercer County region.
The Park Commission is responsible for overseeing and managing more than 7,000 acres of parkland throughout the County with the goal of conserving natural resources and providing recreational opportunities for the public. County stewardship efforts include invasive species control, citizen science efforts, meadow restorations, reforestation projects and wildlife management, all with the objective of improving the ecological health within the park system and surrounding lands.
One of the largest regional threats to biodiversity of flora and fauna in central New Jersey is the overabundance of white-tailed deer. Increased herbivory caused by deer overpopulation jeopardizes the native plant understory and overall forest health by degrading its habitat value for other wildlife. Portions of Mercer County have been identified by wildlife biologists as having some of the highest deer populations in the state. For example, 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. 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. In order to address this ecological issue and cooperate with regional efforts, the Park Commission implements its deer management program in a number of County parks.
Bow hunting for County deer management hunters will begin at parks on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. Hunting is permitted Monday through Saturday until Feb. 18, 2023. The parks will remain open to the public during bow hunting season.
Firearm hunting will occur at Baldpate Mountain and the area north of Mercer Lake at Mercer County Park beginning Monday, Dec. 5 through Saturday, Dec. 10, and every Wednesday through Saturday thereafter through Feb. 11. The parks/regions will be closed to the public when firearms are in use. There will be no hunting on Sunday.
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. Park rangers will patrol the parks during closures to ensure public safety.
The County deer management program complies with all State hunting regulations. The Park Commission has adopted additional rules for the program to ensure the safety of the public and ethical hunting practices. Hunting is only permitted by those who have applied for and met all the requirements to participate in the program. All hunting must be done from an elevated tree stand; hunters are not permitted to hunt from the ground. The County has 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.
Park users are reminded to stay on County-authorized trails only, and to wear bright colors and to keep dogs on leash at all times during bow hunting season. Park users are also asked to observe posted closure notices and to refrain from entering the park and areas posted during the closures.
For the past five years, the Park Commission has supported efforts to ensure that deer harvested from the parks are donated to the Hunters Helping the Hungry program. In that time, hunters in the deer management program have donated 333 deer, the equivalent of 49,284 servings of venison, to Mercer County food shelters.
More information about the Park Commission’s deer management program, including maps, can be found here.