Monty Deer Hunt Needed to Save Habitat
By Annabelle Wang l October 26, 2021
It’s difficult not to swoon over New Jersey’s native white tail deer, with their innocent expressions, graceful leaps, and long eyelashes that crown chocolate- colored eyes. Yet, as shocking as it may seem, deer hunting has become crucial to suburban towns like Montgomery Township. In the bittersweet words of Mary Reece, the chairwoman of the Montgomery Township Environmental Commission, “We have no choice.”
Thanks to an explosion in the white-tailed deer population over the last century, deer threaten the community’s health, safety, and ecosystems. Deer are particularly infamous for spreading tick-borne diseases like Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, and the more rare Babesiosis, all of which can cause flu-like symptoms. However, they also threaten public health by haphazardly crossing the road, causing more than 105 automobile accidents in Montgomery in the last 15 years. This is not to mention the deer-related accidents that went unreported.
An overabundance of deer also stresses forests that are already strained by climate change and expanding development. Scientists consider 10 deer every square mile to be sustainable, meaning the impact of a deer population of that size allows the relative proportion of trees to regenerate fast enough to replace those eaten by deer or damaged by weather and insects. According to a 2020 survey by wildlife management organization White Buffalo, Montgomery Township has about 120 deer square, much higher than the recommended limit of 10.
Local forests threatened Central New Jersey forests already face several natural threats from invasive species, such as the Emerald Ash Borer and the Spotted Lanternfly. Deer add to the burden by eating saplings and, for bucks, rubbing their antlers on trees, wearing away the outer bark that houses the tree’s nutrient-transporting tissues. Young trees that are not yet resilient against such stress often die out, stunting the next generation of trees. Still, despite acknowledging these effects, many are hesitant to support hunting as a solution to deer overpopulation. Lauren Wasilauski, Montgomery’s open space coordinator, pointed out that this is typically because private property owners tend to visualize Bambi when they think of deer.
The Bambi Effect
A phenomenon called the Bambi Effect happens when people protest more to killing objectively cute animals than less attractive ones such as ants. Wasilauski stressed that education about the actual consequences of deer overpopulation is vital to gaining more support for wildlife management methods like hunting. Environmental Commission Chairperson Reece also noted that hunting can be a positive social cause. In Montgomery, hunters can work through the township to donate their game to a Union County food bank and Hunters Helping the Hungry, a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
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In the past year alone, Montgomery hunters donated 72 deer to Hunters Helping the Hungry, providing food for multiple food banks in the region. Montgomery residents face the choice: Protect the township’s shared land or stay stuck behind a Bambi mirage. If white-tailed deer are truly valued, then pay attention to the stewardship of our shared home.
The Montgomery Hunt
The 2021-2022 hunting season began September 11 with fall bow hunting and ends February 19. Six-day firearm hunting week runs December 6 to December 11, 2021. Hunting is never allowed on Sundays.
Learn more at: twp.montgomery.nj.us/departments/clerk/deer-management-program.