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Annual College-Sponsored Deer Hunt Gets Underway Amid Efforts to Restore Ecosystem in Crum Woods

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Every year beginning in October and extending through November, the college is assisted by a public bow hunt group to control the deer population in the Crum Woods. The Swarthmore community was notified of this year’s public hunt on Oct. 18 in an email from Director of Grounds and Horticulture Jeff Jabco. This year marks the thirteenth consecutive year of the public hunt. 

In an interview with The Phoenix, Jeff Jabco, director of grounds and coordinator of horticulture, commented on how the public hunt helps curb the current deer population, which poses a threat to the natural ecosystem.  

“The deer are eating anything that is regenerating, and they prefer anything that is native. Exotic plants are taking over as the deers eat the regenerating [native] plants. The recommendation is that once the deer control initiative starts, we do it every year so that the population doesn’t accumulate every year,” he said.

Jabco mentioned that deer control efforts in suburban areas are important, as white-tail deer populations are very high in these areas and need to be controlled.

“Deer population in PA is much larger and well adapted to suburban areas, and there exist very [few] natural predators of deer – the only major predators are human-operated cars. Deers have adapted to living in these suburban regions,” he stated.

Prior to the establishment of the deer control project, open meetings were held with Swarthmore College, of which included the board of managers and local residents around the area. Jabco went into depth at this meeting, explaining the need for deer control.

“There are two aspects of deer control effort: [a] public hunt when individuals are required to have a PA license, archery license, and safety training course, and culling, when companies that … possess a special license kill deer out of hunting season … [these efforts] will continue until the natural thresholds of regenerative plants are restored,” he said.

While the hunt started as an effort to control the deer population in Crum Woods, it is also a way for people to hunt for their own meat. Jabco noted that the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s role helps process and deal with the fresh deer carcasses. 

“If an archer is able to hunt the deer, they take the deer. For culling, either the game commission takes care of them, or the college pays someone to butcher the deer and the meat they donate to community groups or churches for supplying food to the needy,” he said. 

While the hunt is officially college-sponsored and open to individuals who apply in a timely manner, he noted that there are certain prerequisites a person must meet in order to join the hunt. 

“Since there are specific days and times, there are a limited number of 8-12 archery hunters within the cohort. Students interested in archery hunting must contact the game commission and be trained in archery courses. In addition to (the) PA license, hunter safety courses teach people safe methods to shoot and use weapons,” he states.

Reflecting on this annual event, some students, including Luis Park ’25, describe it as a necessity to nurture the ecosystem. 

“I think lowering the deer population is necessary so that they don’t cause irreversible damage. I think this is the best way to approach this situation because otherwise it would take an unnecessary amount of time and money. And we need to remember this is not a complete elimination of the deer, just maintaining the population,” he said.

Zhen Ning Deng ’26 shared a similar perspective on deer control, and highlighted the impact that high deer populations can have on other organisms in the ecosystem. 

“While deer hunting may seem like a cruel activity, it might actually be good for the environment if it’s properly controlled. When the deer population increases, other organisms in our ecosystem suffer as plants are consumed by deer in numbers. This flips the natural balance of our ecosystems, causing plants that aren’t eaten by deer to thrive in abundance … impacting a wide range of other species,” he notes.

Elan Nadelman ’26, a prospective biology major, spoke about the intricacies of ecosystems, and how people’s actions, no matter how benign, can deeply affect the delicate balance in the ecosystem. He referenced an example of when the Australian government attempted to control French beetles that were damaging sugar cane crops.

“Nature is really complex and tampering with any small thing can have an enormous impact … Biologists today have a vast knowledge of how ecosystems work and what is best for them but they still make mistakes,” he said. “A classic textbook example is when the Australian government added cane frogs to the environment to predate on the cane and French’s beetles that were eating sugar cane crops. That ended in disaster as the frogs took over scavenging the land, greatly impacting biodiversity.” 

Nadelman went on to say that he doesn’t believe the annual deer hunt is the best choice of action for addressing the deer problem in Crum Woods, but he also noted that he would listen to other biologists if they truly believed this was the best answer. 

“Do I think this is the best way to get this done? No. But if the great biologists above think this is what needs to happen to help the environment – then it has to happen,” he stated.

Controlling the deer population will allow for the protection of the unique plants that exist in the ecosystem in the Crum Woods. To a greater extent, the college’s annual commission for hunting these white-tail deer will ensure the stability of the Crum Woods’ biosphere, encompassing its large, diverse pool of endangered species.

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