WEST WINDSOR, NJ --   The Mercer County Park Commission is once again turning to licensed New Jersey hunters to help in "reducing the overabundant deer herd in the park." According to the Park Commission’s Stewardship Department, conservative estimates of the increasing deer population at Mercer County Park show an estimated 104 deer per square mile in the birthing season. The program will take place on select days until Saturday, February 15.

Citing that 75 percent of red oak seedling planted in December, 2007, were eaten by the local deer population just six months later, parks officials said the that severe "deer browse," has caused a lack of regeneration of trees, which has negatively affected the forest. This damage poses a threat to the overall forest health and habitat value for other wildlife. 

The Park Commission will maintain hunting in the three regions in Mercer County Park that were implemented last year in order to minimize 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. There is an additional 600-foot safety zone surrounding the campground until it closes on Nov. 15. 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. 

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Firearms will be used only when the park is closed to the public: Mercer Oaks West in January, Mercer Oaks East in February, and the Lake North region Monday through Thursday, Dec. 9 through 31, and Monday through Saturday, Jan. 1 through Feb. 8. No use of firearms will be permitted in the Lake South region.

Furthermore, stewardship 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 season, 79 deer from the Mercer County Park Pilot Program (57 percent of total harvest) were donated, providing approximately 11,692 servings of venison to local food pantries. A total of 112 deer were donated throughout all County programs, equivalent to 4,144 pounds of meat and 16,576 servings of venison. The Park Commission has set aside funding to cover the donation fee at the local game butcher during this year’s program.

A detailed overview and information regarding each region of the park is available online at  the Deer Management page on the Park Commission website.

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