It’s back. Essex County Deer Management Program will continue for a seventh consecutive year. The program will be conducted for four days in South Mountain Reservation (Tuesdays, January 21st and 28th and Thursdays, January 23rd and 30th in the afternoon only). It will also be held for four days in Hilltop Reservation and the old Essex County Hospital Center site (Tuesdays, February 4th and 11th and Thursdays, February 6th and 13th in the afternoon only). The program will not be held in Eagle Rock Reservation.
More from the announcement after the jump; tell us how you feel about the program in comments.
“We have been very successful in reducing the deer population in our reservations to a manageable level, which has enabled us to transition our program from aggressively removing deer and scaling it back to where our goal is to maintain the population. While we have made tremendous progress, it is important to continue this maintenance mode to preserve the forest habitat and maintain our reservations as viable resources for recreation and open space,” said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.
DiVincenzo noted that when the program started in 2008, it was held in the morning and afternoon on 12 days for a total of 24 sessions while this year’s program includes eight days with just eight sessions. “We have updated our program to adapt to the changing conditions in each reservation,” DiVincenzo noted.
Started in 2008, the program has resulted in 922 deer removed from the county’s reservations. A program to accelerate the re-growth of our forests and a pilot program to reduce traffic accidents involving deer were also introduced.
Freeholder Patricia Sebold said she has not always supported culling deer from the County’s reservations but changed her mind because of the growing deer population. “A appreciate the County Executive for keeping the deer under control. It is something that needs to be done,” she said.
To maximize safety, South Mountain Reservation, Hilltop Reservation, the Old Hospital Center Site and all parking areas and roads inside the two reservations will be closed to the public on the days the program is held in that specific reservation. Part of Fairview Avenue in Cedar Grove and Verona will be closed to traffic, but all other county roadways will remain open. Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, Essex County Codey Arena, the Essex County Park-N-Ride facility and McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant in West Orange will remain open. The Essex County Sheriff’s Office will coordinate safety patrols with local police departments.
“For the Hilltop Conservancy, managing the deer population is important to strike an ecological balance in the reservation. One of the negative impacts of having too many deer is that the understory is being stripped and other animals are disappearing,” Hilltop Conservancy Treasurer Theresa Trapp said. “The program needs to be continued to relieve the deer pressure and to allow forest regeneration,” she said.
“It has to be highlighted that this is not a war on deer. This is the implementation of a management program to control deer overabundance. It is such a big problem that North Caldwell initiated our own program this year,” North Caldwell Administrator Mel Levine said. “County Executive Joe DiVincenzo recognized we had to do something has made the County’s Deer Management Program a good example of what a good program can do,” he added.
Qualified, volunteer marksmen have been selected to participate in the program. The volunteers are licensed by the State of New Jersey and have demonstrated their marksmanship ability and completed an orientation program with the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs and the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. When in the reservations, the agents will station themselves in trees at least 20 feet above the ground and only take shots at a downward angle.
All deer removed from the reservations will be transported to a check station where County officials will inspect the animals and collect information about its age, reproductive status, gender and weight, as well as the number of shots fired. They will then be transported by the County to a NJ Department of Health approved butcher for processing. Venison will be donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside, which will distribute the meat to the needy and homeless. In 2013, 2,291 pounds of venison was donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which provided over 9,000 meals for needy families. Since the Essex County Deer Management Program started in 2008, over 28,000 pounds of venison have been donated. Volunteer marksmen who complete at least five (5) half-day shifts of volunteer service will receive 40 pounds of venison.