CRANBURY – Concerned over the white-tailed deer population and the harm they can cause to the local environment if left unchecked, the township committee will hold a final vote on a bill to allow deer hunting on five municipal-owned lands.

If approved, white-tailed deer hunting would take place at Fischer Property, Frosztega Property, Updike Property, and Hagerty Tree Farm, which are preserved township-owned farmlands and also at the Reinhart Preserve, under the new deer management program.

“We did not do this lightly. The [New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection] is very concerned about environmental protection and disruption,” James Taylor, township mayor, said on Wednesday. “We would not have done this if the NJDEP did not agree that this was an appropriate step. When we spoke with environmental officials the most humane and effective means to control the population was through hunting.”

The proposed ordinance states that “… there is a compelling need to establish regulated deer hunting as a management tool in the Township Code to mitigate the negative impacts caused by an over-abundant deer population.” Some of those impacts listed in the ordinance include Lyme disease, deer-vehicle crashes, and agricultural crop losses.

The hunting bill is scheduled for a public hearing and final vote at the township committee meeting on June 24 at 7 p.m.

The proposal to allow deer hunting at the township-owned lands developed from residents’ and farmers’ concerns regarding the white-tailed population and safety of community members and other animals, and protecting locally-grown crops and other vegetation.

“I support this measure,” Taylor said. “The residential growth with plantings has created a buffet for the deer during the spring, summer and fall months that increases their population and with that comes increased risk for starvation in winter and accidents from more frequent encounters with humans.”

If approved, hunters would have to meet all necessary state laws and also the local requirements to receive a hunting permit from the township. The permits would be issued through a random lottery to eligible hunters and are site-specific.

Hunters would also have to follow all state rules and regulations for hunting, such as season dates and bag limits.

As for safety on non-hunters near those areas, the mayor said he doesn’t “have an increased concern over and above the hunting we have on private land that abuts public land.”

“We’re limiting the hunting to bow hunting to cut down on the risk and we’ll have an information campaign and process in place to alert residents when hunting will occur,” Taylor said. “Of the properties we are allowing hunting to occur only the Reinhardt preserve is actively used by residents. Our Police Department, Game officials, and NJDEP take safety as a paramount concern.”

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Christopher Lang is a freelance correspondent for MonroeNow. Previously he was part of The Record-USA Today Network and served as an editor for a decade at NJMG.