Reminder: Feeding deer contributes to a serious problem

Posted on January 14, 2019

Each person reading this has likely experienced that heart-stopping moment when a deer darts into the roadway in front of your car and you slam on the brakes.  Many times you are able to avoid direct impact, but sometimes you, or your car, aren’t so lucky.  This is an increasingly frequent problem, and the Township would like to ask our residents help in controlling the deer population.

Part of what makes living in Montgomery so special is the beautiful scenery all around us – rolling farm fields, large tracts of forest, and plenty of parks.  Unfortunately, a great number of white-tailed deer have found Montgomery to be a particularly nice place to live too, and it’s become a dangerous situation.

Many people put bird feeders in their yard, particularly in winter time when the birds have a difficult time foraging for food.  But, some folks have also taken to feeding the deer, putting out corn and actual “deer chow”.  It may seem like an innocuous idea; you’re helping them find food just like you help the birds, right?  Unfortunately, feeding the deer is causing more harm than good, contributing to a higher density of deer than normal.  While the deer may look lovely wandering through your yard, they’re also wandering across roadways to get to your yard.  This creates a very dangerous situation for motor vehicles; drivers are increasingly encountering deer crossing our roads.

The overpopulation of deer in Montgomery is due to a number of factors.  Over the past 50 years, many of the natural predators that historically kept the deer population stable – wolves, cougars, bears, coyotes – have dwindled in numbers or disappeared.  In addition, residential subdivisions create havens for deer, where they can feast on your (expensive) landscaping, and where hunting can’t take place.

For over 15 years, the Township has conducted a municipal hunting program for white-tailed deer on Township open space properties to try to curb the deer population.  Hunters are required to participate in an annual safety training, and properties are posted with warning signs at entrances and around the perimeter.  Deer hunting season runs from early September to mid-February (check the Township website for exact dates), but no hunting takes place on Township properties on Sundays.

The overpopulation of deer has many other serious impacts beyond motor vehicle accidents.  Lyme disease and related diseases, carried by ticks that live on deer, has increased in incidence – 84 cases have been reported in our residents in 2015.  Deer feed on farmers’ crops, leading to severe losses for farmers.  The large deer population also harms our forests.  Deer are browsers, eating native trees and shrubs at their early stages of growth.  If a tree seedling survives a few years and becomes slightly larger, it’s then in danger of being used by male deer (bucks) to rub the pesky fuzz off their antlers – the deer use the thin tree trunks like dental floss between their antlers.  By rubbing off the bark, the deer kill the tree. All this damage to young trees has led to unhealthy ‘aging’ forests across the northeastern United States.  There are fewer young understory trees to “succeed” older trees that die, are damaged by weather, etc.

Please do your part to help control the deer population, by NOT feeding them so that the deer herd size reflects the natural limitations of the land.  Think of the health and safety of yourself, your family, and your neighbors.

Source: Montgomery Twp. Open Space Committee