Editor's Note: The following news release was issued by the Mercer County administration. It is an update on an earlier news release, as well as a Letter to the Editor written by Lawrence Township resident Tony Singleton.
The Mercer County Park Commission will begin a deer management program at the Pole Farm section of Mercer Meadows. The program will run from Jan. 1 through Feb. 16, 2013, and deer will be harvested by bow only; no crossbows are permitted.
Hunting will take place Monday through Wednesday and every other Saturday; on these days the park will be CLOSED to the public. Each entrance to the park will be posted with a 3-by-2-foot blaze orange sign that includes the dates of the hunt.
This program is being initiated in response to a forest health study that was conducted at the park three years ago. To measure the quality of the forest, tree seedlings were planted throughout the park and were later measured for deer browse. The density and composition of the understory, or shrub layer, were also measured as part of the study.
It was concluded that the deer browse at the Pole Farm was severe enough to prevent any native shrubs or trees from generating in any open forest gaps. In other words, trees in this forest are not being replaced when they die or fall to the forest floor.
The pressure from high-intensity deer browse and the current invasive plant infestation is a double-whammy to forest regeneration. The plant community in every habitat is the supporting foundation for all of the other organisms that inhabit it. Insects, songbirds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals all rely on the native plant structure for food and shelter. Once native plants begin disappearing, other wildlife will follow.
The deer management program complies with all of the hunting regulations set by the State; in addition, the Park Commission has adopted County rules for the program. All hunting must be done from an elevated tree stand; hunters are not permitted to hunt from the ground. There is no shooting across park trails, even though the park is closed to the public.
For a full set of the Park Commission’s rules and regulations for the Pole Farm deer management program, visit http://nj.gov/counties/mercer/commissions/park/natureprog.html. The website also contains a link to a page containing additional information about the program.
The county naturalist will collect data on the deer harvest and hunter attendance to measure the effectiveness of the program. Future forest health studies will be scheduled for the Pole Farm to determine the effect of the deer management program.
The county currently collects harvest data from the Baldpate Mountain Deer Management Program and continues to conduct forest health studies at the park. The hunting at Baldpate has produced successful forest regeneration and native shrubs have returned to many areas of the forest.
To best steward the habitats at the Pole Farm, in addition to the deer management program, the county is also undertaking, in partnership with the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, a 450-acre grassland restoration project.
Over the next year, the fields at the Pole Farm will be prepared and seeded with native warm season grasses and wildflowers to benefit the various wildlife that rely on the Pole Farm’s important grasslands. Native pollinators, including many bee species, butterflies and beetles, will benefit from the wildflower meadows that will be planted at the southeastern section of the park. The other large tracts of grassland will be restored to suit the specific needs of a group of declining songbirds.
These grassland-specific breeders include the Eastern meadowlark, bobolink and grasshopper sparrow. The newly listed state-threatened American kestrel also breeds at the Pole Farm and will benefit from the restoration project.
The Park Commission is no longer taking applications for this season’s Pole Farm deer management program. For more information, visit the Park Commission website at http://nj.gov/counties/mercer/commissions/park/ or call the County Naturalist at (609) 303-0706.
As a result of the environmental control program, the Pole Farm Section of Mercer Meadows will be closed to the public on the following dates: Jan. 1, 2, 5, 7-9, 14-16, 19, 21-23, 28-30 and Feb. 2, 4-6, 11-13, 16, 2013.
- Nov. 28: "Deer Hunt to be Held in Pole Farm at Mercer Meadows"
- Nov. 30: "Letter to the Editor: Deer Hunt in Park is 'Dangerous'"