Flat Rock Brook Nature Center’s forest has experienced extensive habitat degradation caused by the overpopulation of deer feeding on native tree seedlings and saplings. Overgrazing deer prevent the forest from naturally regenerating. The shrub layer disappears, leaving a barren understory that is no longer able to function as habitat for wildlife. This problem, combined with the rapid spread of non-native plants, or invasive species, is compromising the overall health and biodiversity of our forest. This has become a serious threat to forests across the state of New Jersey.
Our Board of Trustees and staff began discussing deer management options several years ago. After careful research and consultation with authorities that weighed various solutions, it was decided that a deer exclosure would be the most effective resolution. Creating deer exclosures on the preserve offers the most sustainable and effective method for long-term forest health and regeneration. The fencing in of crucial habitat within our preserve will give the forest understory a chance to regenerate and rebound after years of extensive damage. Native plant communities will return, biodiversity will increase and viable wildlife habitat will become more readily available.
Construction work on our deer exclosure was completed in September 2017. The fencing project resulted in two separate deer exclosures, a small area located at the Jones Road Picnic Area (approximately 20 acres) and a larger section surrounding a majority of the remaining forest (approximately 80 acres). An estimated 50 acres of the park will remain unfenced and accessible to deer.
This project is an essential first step in protecting the health, biodiversity and wildlife of our precious forest. The primary objective of fencing is to keep deer out of sensitive areas in the park to prevent further damage to our native vegetation. Success of the project will depend on hikers and community members responsibly closing access gates within the preserve. The gates will be located in areas where the fence line intersects with a trail. Please be sure to close these gates behind you after walking through these entrances. The installation of a cattle grate at the park’s Main Entrance gate will allow it to remain open during normal park hours without re-entry of deer into the park. This will allow us to keep the main parking area open during visiting hours so that your access to the preserve will remain undisturbed. Thanks so much for your cooperation on this important project that will benefit the health of our forest.