Sourland Conservancy Testifies in Favor of Deer Control Bill
By Barbara A. Preston | July 13, 2022
Sourland Conservancy representatives testified in Trenton on June 13 in favor of a bill to allow farmers more leeway in controlling deer and reducing deer damage to their crops. Laurie Cleveland, the Sourland Conservancy’s executive director, and former Montgomery resident Cliff Wilson, a member of the organization’s Public Policy and Advocacy Committee, testified before the Agriculture and Food Security Committee of the NJ Assembly, in support of bill A4182.
While the focus of the bill is preventing loss of crops, the conservancy sees synergy with its mission to halt and reverse deforestation that is being caused by the overpopulation of whitetailed deer. “In our view, any reasonable action that might make a dent in the deer population is worthwhile,” Wilson said in his testimony. “The Sourland Forest is dying,” Cleveland testified. “It has been decades since the forest has been able to regenerate at anything close to a sustainable level.
The main reason is a vast overpopulation of white-tailed deer, which feed on the seedlings and saplings in the understory.” The pair called for the state to formally recognize the importance of the Sourlands; to fund reforestation efforts; and for further action to control the deer population, including incentives for hunters to take more deer.
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They also introduced the idea of allowing the sale of wild-caught venison, which is currently illegal in all 50 states. “When we think of problems associated with NJ’s growing deer population, we often think of car accidents, farm crops being destroyed and landscapes decimated. However, the deer population is severely preventing our forests from natural regeneration, as well,” said Assemblyman Roy Frieman of Hillsborough, a sponsor of the bill and chairman of the committee. “The Sourland Mountain is the third largest forest in New Jersey and is at risk because of the uncontrolled deer population in our area,” Frieman said.
The committee also heard testimony from farmers, academics, sportsmen and animal welfare advocates. Nearly everyone agreed that there are too many deer in the state, causing a wide range of problems. Most suggested ways to increase hunting, although some participants suggested that sterilization might be part of the solution. The committee is working on possible revisions to the bill before voting on whether to release it to the General Assembly.
Montgomery Deer Hunt
The township makes some of its municipally-owned parks and preserves available to licensed hunters, for the purpose of culling white-tailed deer. About 15 farmer-owned properties are included in the program. Applications to participate in Montgomery Township’s 2022-2023 deer hunting season were due on June 30.
To be eligible for a permit, applicants must be at least 18 years old, provide proof of $1 million in general liability insurance, and possess a current NJ hunting license. Hunting season begins September 10 with fall bow hunting and ends February 19 after winter bow. A six-day firearm hunting week runs from December 5 to December 10. Hunting is not permitted on Sundays.
Learn more about the Sourland Conservancy at sourland.org
Learn more about the Montgomery Deer Management Program on the Township website.