Oh, Deer!

fencedeerRobert Frost’s famous poem Mending Wall quotes the 17th century proverb, “Good fences make good neighbors”, and the poem goes on to imagine the purposes behind building fences, building walls.

The narrator of the poem asks, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know, What I was walling in or walling out”

In towns like Oakland, Wyckoff and Franklin Lakes, the answer may be the growing population of deer. The deer population in NJ is growing, and has been growing for years, but there has been little action or discussion to what many environmentalists are now considering a serious situation.

Many people in Bergen County towns are seeing deer where they have never seen them before, as they take up residence in a small patch of woods or a neighborhood park - where they certainly look cute. Other Bergen County residents who have lived as neighbors to the deer for decades, are witnessing a more destructive side of this exploding population.

Besides deer continuing to feast on the offerings provided by the manicured yards of suburbia, they are also destroying the undergrowth of woods and forests - and creating a problem to the environmental balance this brush provides.

Woods & forests whose ground has normally been covered in green lush have seen that ground cover destroyed over the past years by an ever increasing deer population. The dramatic increase in deer has also led to spikes in deer and car accidents, which motorists should be advised becomes more common as we enter the autumn mating season.

Hunting has been used successfully in other NJ counties with a stronger hunting tradition, but the over-development of Bergen County has left little space where hunting can be conducted in a safe and controlled manner. Sharpshooter and bow hunters offer one solution, but many residents are concerned of accidents happening with hikers or birders in the woods.

The options outside of hunting can get expensive.

Trapping and transferring of deer was met with varied success in the NJ towns of Millburn and Summit, but it is an expensive option from the traps needed and the fees associated with moving the deer. It has also become less of an option since even neighboring states won’t allow more deer to be transported across the border.

Sharpshooters offer an option, but fees typically ranged from $200 to $500 per deer. The killed deer, venison, is then often donated to community food banks.

Chemical fertility control is another method that has been tried over the past decade in NJ, but no programs have proven overly successful to warrant a wide-scale implementation. The deer are given vaccines delivered by a dart gun, but the effectiveness and the need to provide booster shots makes this only an evolving option that needs more research.

In the meantime, there are types of plantings that deer do not normally feed on and can be used to landscape a yard. Fences, as noted in the beginning, continue to be a method to keep deer out of yards, and combined with repellents are most effective.

The fencing option is being used effectively by private homeowners, and also to help promote forest regrowth in some preservation areas….. But by fencing deer out, people are being fenced in.

NJ Community Deer Management Plan
Controlling Deer in Your Yard
Bergen Record Article on Deer Population

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