New Jersey Farm Bureau Welcomes the Assembly Agriculture Committee’s Commitment
to Address Deer Overpopulation in New Jersey
Trenton, NJ — On Monday, February 22, 2021, members of the Assembly Agriculture Committee met to receive expert testimony on the issue of deer overpopulation in the state. The committee heard statements from four invited guests who offered expert opinions regarding the deer overpopulation’s harmful effects on our forests, landscaping, safety and food supply.
The New Jersey Farm Bureau appreciates the work of Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairman Eric Houghtaling for his leadership to call this meeting and seek proactive solutions to the current deer crisis. The Farm Bureau has been leading the effort to bring about meaningful change in the way state and local government address this crisis.
Farm Bureau President, Ryck Suydam stated, “Our members are grateful that the Assembly Agriculture Committee heard from recognized experts in the fields of agriculture, ecology and wildlife management today. All the witnesses expressed the need for New Jersey to legislate scientifically based efforts to reduce the over-sized deer population. Unless legislation and other actions are enacted, the deer will continue to impact forest regeneration, personal health and safety and agricultural viability in our state.”
The experts who testified at the hearing included Gene Huntington, president of Steward Green consulting firm, Jay Kelly, professor at Raritan Valley Community College, Joseph Paulin, conservation specialist for the Rutgers NJ Agricultural Experiment Station, and David Drake, professor and extension wildlife specialist at the University of Wisconsin. Their independent conclusion was that effective deer management must be streamlined, including the process of depredation permits, subsidizing venison donation programs, and integration into forest management. “Deer overpopulation is not simply a problem in the state; it is an outright emergency. If we are to save our forests and farmers, legislation must be immediate”, said Professor Jay Kelly.
Gene Huntington, president of Steward Green, testified that an infrared drone study of eight New Jersey counties in 2019 found deer densities of up to 112 per square mile. The scientifically accepted density to sustain a healthy deer population is 5 – 15 deer per square mile. “The severely out-of-balance deer population leads to millions of dollars in economic loss from crop/landscape damage, automobile collisions, and an increased risk of Lyme disease. Deer are rapidly depleting habitats that threaten New Jersey’s forest lands and other native wildlife and exacerbating the spread of invasive plant species.”
New Jersey Farm Bureau agrees with David Drake’s assessment that “Deer overabundance in New Jersey is an issue that needs to be examined through the lens of urban land development rather than traditional deer management using recreational hunting as the primary tool for population growth regulation. Therefore, traditional deer management will never be successful in an urban state like NJ from a perspective of reducing agricultural and forest damage to tolerable levels. Only through meaningful legislation and other actions that address mitigation efforts including adequate wildlife management on public lands, adjustments to the game code, additional hunting, and education, will we bring the deer population of this state back into balance.”
The New Jersey Farm Bureau looks forward to ongoing discussions with all stakeholders to place New Jersey on a path of intervention to mitigate the destruction to our state caused by having too many deer.