Saturday is the start of deer hunting season in Bernards Township, and specifically selected hunting clubs have been given permission to hunt on 38 township properties in an arrangement that the township's deer management advisory committee chairman said has vastly reduced the deer population during the past decade or so.
The committee met on Thursday night and went through a checklist of procedures in place from putting up notification signs for hunting areas, a task performed by township Police Sgt. Eric Gelata, to seeking permission to hunt for a limited number of days at the county's and the
The deer hunting program, mostly on township properties has been in place for about a decade or slightly more, members said. It includes qualified hunters with guns or with bows and arrows.
"If it wasn't for this sanctioned program, there would be thousands and thousands and thousands more [deer]," said Leon Harris, the committee's chairman.
The regular hunting season is set to continue through February. About 90 percent of the deer culled are butched and sent as to the Somerset County food bank, said board member Curt Graham.
Board members said on Thursday that there are places where deer live plentifully and where they can't be hunted—such as the Educational Center in Liberty Corner.
Gelata said the township is considering adding 10 more township properties to the list of permitted hunting locations.
Board members said the number of deer in the most recent survey was counted as being in the mid-40s per square mile compared with about 118 per square mile about 12 years ago.
On Aug. 14, the deer advisory committee had submitted a report to the saying that the number of deer hunted locally last year number is off by 12 percent, although the township's deer population has continued to decline. The report also showed a 69-percent decline in the number of deer-vehicle collisions since 2001.
Indications are that there are far fewer deer in the township than in the past, Township Committeeman John Carpenter, the Township Committee's liasion to the deer management advisory committee, said at that time.
"I can remember a time when you couldn't drive at night without dodging deer," Carpenter told the Township Committee.
The report submitted to the township said that during Biological Deer Year 2012, through the end of this March, the number of deer roadkills reported in the township was 89, down from 289 in 2001.
Carpenter said that sustained efforts to reduce the deer population have been successful, including steps such as extending deer hunting season for several years. This year's deer management advisory committee report, which also recommends the extension of this year's deer hunting season from mid-February thru end of March 2013, as had been done in the winter of 2012 and previous years.
The township already has received state approval to extend the season next spring, Carpenter said in August.
The report had concluded that last year's lack of winter weather was probably the most important reason for the reduced harvest.
"March 2012 was the warmest March on record. There was little snow," The report noted. "Deer could comfortably browse at night and were less active during the day."
The report also notes that Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease [EHD] infected and killed many deer in the area the past year. "This reduced the overall deer population and hunting opportunities," the report said. It added, "Sick, dying, and dead deer are not pleasant to see, but EHD poses no health risk to humans," the report said.
Except for a possible case in Cape May County, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said there have been no confirmed case of EHD in New Jersey as of mid-August. On Thursday night, board members discussed hearing about a case in Salem County.
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