Whitetail Deer Reportedly Costing New Jersey Farmers Millions of Dollars Every Year

by Amy Myers
(Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Farmers have had to defend their crops against quite a few pests. However, the biggest threat happens to be the ones with antlers. Whitetail deer have caused New Jersey farmers millions of dollars worth of damage each year, and these hardworking individuals are crying out for more balance in their ecosystem.

The Breakdown

  • A recent report showed NJ farmers lost $1.3 million because of damage from whitetail deer
  • The Fish and Wildlife department says deer populations have reached “problematic numbers”
  • Hunting helps keep state white tail populations and damage to crops under control

Rutgers University recently released a report that revealed the startling amount of money that New Jersey farmers lost as a result of whitetail deer. Based on case studies on 27 farms in the state, researchers with Rutgers Cooperative Extension and the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station estimated that this group lost $1.3 million in 2019.

The study focused on both hidden and direct costs. Hidden costs, like “the abandonment of farms or crops, the cost of deer mitigation practices, and the emotional toll of deer damage on farmers,” came out to be roughly $755,200. Meanwhile, direct costs, such as deer damage and reduced crop yields, were around $520,940.

“Hidden costs are substantial and for many farmers caused greater damage than direct deer destruction to crops,” said Nazia Arbab, co-author of the report and assistant professor at the Rutgers University Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.

Whitetail Deer Population Numbers Are ‘Problematic’ in New Jersey

Of course, just one whitetail deer or two munching on some crops won’t ruin a New Jersey farmer’s year. However, population numbers have been becoming increasingly alarming. In fact, deer density numbers per square mile averaged four to five times higher than projected sustainable numbers, as it reads in the New Jersey Farm Bureau Assessment.

The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife concurred, “Deer populations have reached problematic numbers in numerous areas of the state.”

And the stories from the farmers in the Rutgers study are just as telling of the state’s deer problem.

“When I was a boy, it was a treat to see a deer,” one farmer recalled. “[Now] I’m overridden with deer here. If you pull into my yard at night, you can easily see 30-40 deer.” 

Conversely, farmers who can hunt on their properties have seen much less damage.

“Areas where I can control hunting, it makes a big difference for damage,” said another local farmer involved in the study. “Where my guys hunt, they kill both does and bucks. The crop damage is pretty much acceptable for those fields.”

“We’ve been telling our story for a long time,” a third shared. “Deer are responsible for damage to property, public safety, and people’s livelihoods. This is a real problem, and the politicians need to take action.”