UNION COUNTY, NJ — The nearly 500-acre county Lenape Park located on the municipality’s border is a prime habitat for deer, but the elegant creatures don’t seem to stay in the park and have been galloping through residential areas and getting hit by cars, officials said.
Lenape Park, a small portion of which rests in Westfield, is among eight county parks for which the Union County Freeholders have approved both bowhunting and shotgun hunting to reduce the animals’ run-ins with vehicles and habit of gobbling up both residential landscaping and the forest understory.
“We’re going to place eight hunters in Lenape Park,” said Raymond Szpond, the county’s volunteer coordinator of the archery hunt. “It’s basically a 500-acre swamp. There are a significant amount of deer that are coming out of that area and going into residential areas and onto highways and getting hit by cars.”
Lenape Park is one of eight county parks in which both bowhunters and shotgun will be assigned as part of the annual deer hunts set to include a total of 99 days of bowhunting and five days of shotgun hunting.
Other areas in the program include Watchung Reservation, Nomahegan Park, Ash Brook Reservation, Oak Ridge Park, Passaic River Park, Hawk Rise Sanctuary and Linden Municipal Landfill Galloping Hill Golf Course and Elizabeth River Park, the county’s website says.
The program will include 66 days of bow hunting Oct. 1 – Dec. 31; 33 days of bow hunting Jan. 1 – Feb. 14; and five mornings and afternoons of shotgun hunting Jan. 6 – Feb. 3, the hunt schedule shows.
In Watchung Reservation, bowhunting will be limited to Tuesdays and Thursdays, amounting to a total of 40 days in that area, the schedule shows.
Ann DeCamp of Scotch Plains, a member of Save Watchung Reservation, said she is pleased the hunting has been scaled back in the park adjacent to her home.
“I’m happy that they’ve cut it back to a couple of days so other people can use the reservation without worry,” said DeCamp, 61. “And if they’ve put in a fair process for selecting hunters, that’s a good thing.”
This week, Union County announced it is seeking 50 bow hunters for the program. Details on applying can be found on the county website here. Applications are due Aug. 14.
New to the program this year, Szpond said, will be the hunt at Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth. The county had received an influx of calls from residents reporting deer running off of the golf course and getting hit by vehicles, he said.
Szpond said the hunting is to occur in the parks’ most remote areas — away from residences.
“We have to be at least 45 feet away from an occupied dwelling, and the hunters have been instructed to stay as far away from walking trails people and dwellings as possible,” Szpond told TAPinto. Hunters will shoot for elevated tree stands, he said.
The freeholders July 25 approval notes the deer cull program in place since 1994 follows resident concern for the density of deer populations and that a spotlight count of deer conducted last April found population densities in excess of the 20 deer per square mile recommended by forest ecologists.
The count found deer density in Watchung Reservation at 66 deer per square mile; 163 deer per square mile in Lenape and Nomahegan Parks; 93 deer per square mile in Ash Brook Reservation and Oak Ridge Park; and 205 deer per square mile in Linden’s Hawk Rise Sanctuary and the Linden Municipal Landfill, the resolution states.
This year marks the second year in which the county has supplemented its traditional shotgun hunt with a bow hunt something that raised some resident concern.
Last year, hunters bagged 161 deer by shotgun and 101 by archery, according to Union County.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh