Deer Management

In the fall of 2021, The Lawrenceville School will begin culling the campus deer herd as part of a land stewardship plan in partnership with the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS). Deer populations in Mercer County have reached up to 100 animals per square mile, 10 times the number recommended by ecologists. Deer management projects have been implemented in locations around the region and country for several decades and involve rigorous safety protocols followed by professional management hunters. In our area, deer management has occurred in Princeton Township, Princeton University, several Mercer County Parks, and other local natural areas such as the Mount Rose Preserve for over 20 years.

The School’s land stewardship plan will involve ecological survey work, student-centered ecological restoration projects, and culling of deer following in the footsteps of School alumnus and noted ecologist Aldo Leopold, Class of 1905. At current high densities, deer are causing major damage to our tree and plant populations and put our School and local community at increased risk of deer-vehicle collision incidents and Lyme Disease. Leopold wrote about several aspects of this issue in the essay "Thinking Like a Mountain" from his landmark 1949 book A Sand County Almanac. Reducing deer population density on School property will improve the health of our campus ecosystem and the deer herd itself.

Aldo Leopold

Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

In addition to mitigating these issues, the deer management program will help support those in need in the local community. Harvested deer are donated to area food pantries and provide a valuable protein source to hundreds of people facing food insecurity.
 
Below are some answers to common questions about the School’s deer management program. If yours are not answered here, please contact Lawrenceville School Director of Sustainability Steve Laubach at slaubach@lawrenceville.org. Media inquiries can be directed to Lawrenceville School Director of Communications Jessica Welsh at jwelsh@lawrenceville.org or (609) 620-6961.

 

Why is the School launching a deer management Program?

The main reasons for managing the deer population relate to public health, safety, and ecological land management. In our area, deer populations have reached up to 100 animals per square mile, 10 times the number recommended by ecologists.
 

Lyme Disease

The New Jersey Department of Health reports rising numbers of Lyme Disease cases statewide. Since deer are hosts for the carriers of Lyme, the Blacklegged Tick (commonly known as the Deer Tick; scientific name Ixodes scapularis), managing the deer population is part of an overall mitigation strategy for reducing the number of cases of Lyme Disease.
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Deer-Vehicle Collisions

The neighboring town of Hopewell, New Jersey, reports an average of 500 deer collisions per year, contributing to approximately 52,000 deer-vehicle collisions annually in the state. Deer management programs in nearby locations have resulted in a significant decrease in deer collisions. For Lawrenceville, this type of program is projected to reduce the number of deer-vehicle collisions on heavily-travelled surrounding roads such as Princeton Pike and Route 206.

Is there an effective, non-lethal method of controlling the deer population?

Many studies have been conducted on other deer reduction strategies with unsuccessful results or lack of feasibility for our location. Using chemical birth control approaches poses a human health risk, since humans eating deer that have ingested birth control would consume meat with elevated hormone levels. Fencing off land would be impractical for the School given the high installation and maintenance costs for a property of our size. Since the School is not a licensed game farm, receiving approval for this method from the state of New Jersey would also require removal of all deer from the property into neighboring properties as the fencing is completed, which would increase deer population size in nearby areas. From a cost standpoint, other large sites with fencing require a full-time staff member dedicated to fence maintenance. In comparison to other approaches, management hunting has therefore been shown to be much more effective and financially feasible.

Who are the management hunters that the School has permitted to hunt on remote portions of the property?

The Lawrenceville School is allowing two management hunters from Scorpion Deer Management to hunt on remote portions of School land. This company has been hunting for area deer management programs for nearly 15 years on public and private properties throughout Mercer County and nearby locations.

How do the management hunters operate?

Our permitted management hunters work from an elevated tree stand in remote portions of the property. Hunters only use bows and only shoot at deer that are just below them and within 20 yards. They do not shoot horizontally across fields. Deer are covered, processed, and donated to food pantries.

How can I be confident that the hunters will not pose a threat to people or pets?

The School prioritizes the safety and well-being of its community. School senior staff have interviewed these management hunters, carefully reviewed their proposal, and approved their work.
 
The management hunters will monitor the area for several weeks before starting and are familiar with locating remote sections of School land. The permitted management hunters will only cull in remote wooded areas of School property, over a half-mile from any campus pedestrian areas. They will work in elevated tree stands in remote locations of the School property. Click here for a map of deer management areas, which are over a half-mile from the core campus area.
 
These management hunters have been culling deer from public parks and private properties in Lawrence Township and throughout Mercer County for many years, including for the Mercer County Park Commission at Mercer Meadows and Baldpate Mountain parks. It is rare that anyone even notices them, and according to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, there has not been a single safety incident on record involving professional management hunters.
Deer Management Map

Will the management hunters use firearms?

No. They are only permitted to hunt with bows.
 

May any bow hunter hunt on School land?

No. Only the management hunters permitted by the School are allowed to hunt on this property.
 

When will the management hunting begin and end?

Management hunting requires annual culling during the New Jersey deer hunting season which lasts from September to February. Management hunters will begin bow hunting on September 11, 2021 and finish by February 19, 2022. Those dates remain roughly the same from year to year.

When are management hunters allowed to be present?

Management hunting is permitted on approved days 30 minutes prior to sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Management hunters are allowed to be present after the designated evening time for any clean up or removal.
 

Once the deer are removed from the site, what do the management hunters do with them?

Through Hunters Sharing the Harvest, the management hunters will donate deer meat to local food banks. A single deer provides protein for up to 200 people, and multiple deer provide protein to several thousand people over the course of the season.

Where can I get more information about land stewardship and management hunting?

 
Deer Management webpage of the Mercer County Park Commission
 
Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS) - partners on the Lawrenceville School’s campus land stewardship project
 
 
Connection between deer management and Lyme disease. This article addresses debate within the scientific community on the connection between deer management and Lyme disease reduction. More research in this area is needed.
 
Essays by Aldo Leopold, Lawrenceville School Class of 1905, excerpted from his landmark 1949 book Sand County Almanac, courtesy of The Aldo Leopold Foundation. See pages 17-19 of the document for the essay "Thinking Like a Mountain" about the impact of deer overabundance on ecosystems.
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