UNION COUNTY, NJ – The annual Deer Management Program begins January 4 in six county parks and one municipal park, according to the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation.

The seven parks are the Watchung Reservation, the Summit portion of Passaic River Park, Ash Brook Reservation, Lenape Park, Nomahegan Park, Oak Ridge Park, and the Hawk Rise Sanctuary.

Far from the deer density recommended by forest ecologists of 20 per square mile in a healthy hardwood forest and as low as 5 per square mile in a forest that has been heavily damaged by browsing, spotlight counts in Union County’s deer population exceeded those numbers by a wide margin. Overwintering densities of about 47 deer per square mile in the Watchung Reservation, 61 per square mile in and around Ash Brook Reservation and Oak Ridge Park, 73 deer per square mile in the Hawk Rise Sanctuary, and over 200 per square mile in and around Lenape and Nomahegan Parks have bee reported. At Hawk Rise Sanctuary in Linden, over browsing by deer is threatening the survival of hundreds of native plants.

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In addition, roads bordering Lenape and Nomahegan Parks had some of the highest numbers of deer-car collisions in the county.  

Forty marksmen have been chosen by the county from among experienced, licensed hunters.  Eighty-five percent of the hunters have previously participated in Union County’s program, and all are serving on a voluntary basis. The hunters will be wearing orange hats or vests and will hunt the deer from elevated positions, at least 20 feet up in the trees, over baited sites. Non-authorized hunters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Citizens are urged to report any illegal activity to contact the Union County Police at 908-654-9800.

The Union County Deer Management Program, supervised by the Union County Police and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, will operate on Mondays from January 4 to February 12. When there is a holiday on a Monday, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Day, the program moves to Wednesday.  In the event of inclement weather on any other Monday, the hunting activity will be moved to Wednesday that week. If Wednesday brings inclement weather, the hunting will be moved to Friday. Hunters will be in the parks from 5:30 a.m. until after dark, but shooting may occur only during daylight hours. 

The parks will not be closed during the deer management program; however, portions of some roadways inside the park may be closed for short periods. Park patrons should stay on the marked hiking, walking, and bridle trails. Pets must be kept on a leash.

For further information, go to the County’s website at http://ucnj.org/parks-recreation/wildlife-management/deer/  or contact the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation at 908-527-4900.  Hunters interested in joining this program in a future year can get onto a mailing list for applications through the website.