Officials debate deer hunt for Lake Mohawk

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    BYRAM-Ask anyone who resides in Lake Mohawk and there's a good chance they'd agree that something needs to be done about scaling down the area deer population. And ask anyone about how they'd go about controlling the herds that many say have resulted in the spread of Lyme disease, hazardous road conditions and the destruction of property and that's where the agreement ends and the concerns begin. "We will not be in anyone's backyard," said Ernest Hofer, Lake Mohawk Country Club Board of Trustees president, after addressing his concerns before a meeting of the township council. But Hofer says he does have the "overwhelming" support of residents in the private Sparta community to investigate options, which may or may not include a hunt, to address the increasing problems associated with the exploding deer population in the area. According to Hofer, the deer population in Lake Mohawk has increased by up to seven times more that the recommended density for maintaining a balanced ecosystem. He said that although the board has not officially taken a stance on the matter, safety concerns including the spread of Lyme disease, an increase in deer-related motor vehicle accidents and the destruction of property are forcing the board to continue to investigate the possibility to allowing a hunt. "It's very serious," said Hofer. "I'm out at all hours of the day and I see these herds just roaming the streets. Many of our private roads are narrow and winding with minimum lighting and the deer just dash out from the side brush. So it does pose a safety concern." According to Hofer, at least four sites in Lake Mohawk have been determined to be safe for bow-and-arrow-deer harvesting. As long as restrictions are followed, he said, a bow-and-arrow hunt would be safe and pose no risk to community residents. The board of trustees, he said, is considering additional sites that can safely and discreetly be used for harvesting deer. Hofer said they would be determined by acreage of the site, topography and vegetative cover. To harvest deer within 450 feet of a home, written permission from the homeowner would be needed. "Generally, the arrow doesn't travel more than 20 yards," he said. "So, if you can have an opening of several hundred yards where hunters are positioned vertically above -- they're shooting down to the ground and the travel is less than 15 yards n and the key requirement there is that you would have skilled hunters qualify." Alluding to concerns of any free-roaming hunters, Hofer said hunters would only be allowed to harvest deer from the location in which they have been assigned and only at their scheduled times. "There is some limitation," Hofer said. "Generally, you need to repeat this process more than once. It may be necessary to do this annually for three years." Hofer said towns conducting similar successful programs include Bernards, Millburn, Bridgewater, Summit, Mountain Lakes, Watchung, Princeton, Harding, Hanover, and Union. More, discussions concerning a potential hunt, he said would be forthcoming. "We would not proceed without full support of the township," said Hofer. "We want to look at a comprehensive program and make sure we do all of our homework."