Essex County Deer Management Program will continue for an eighth consecutive year. The program will be conducted in South Mountain Reservation and Hilltop Reservation on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Tuesday, January 27 to Thursday, February 26. To maximize safety, the two reservations will be closed to the public on the days the Deer Management Program is being conducted.
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,” the Executive pointed out. “Since we started in 2008, we have removed 1,030 deer from our reservations, started a program to accelerate the re-growth of our forests and introduced a pilot program to reduce traffic accidents involving deer. The over abundance of deer affects all of our communities, and our program provides a comprehensive approach to address the problem,” he said.
“From the beginning, we have made sure that this program has been carried out safely. That’s been our number one priority,” Sheriff Armando Fontoura said. “I want to thank our partners on the municipal police departments for working with us and making sure our plan has worked magnificently and without any complaints,” he noted.
“Emotionally I am against culling deer, but intellectually I know it’s the right thing to do if we want to save our reservations,” Freeholder Patricia Sebold said.
The program will be conducted for four days in South Mountain Reservation on Tuesdays, January 27th and February 3rd and Thursdays, January 29th and February 5th in the afternoons only. It will be held for four days in Hilltop Reservation and the old Essex County Hospital Center site on Tuesdays, February 17th and 24th and Thursdays, February 19th and 26th in the afternoons only. The program will not be held in Eagle Rock Reservation.
“I want to thank the County Executive, the Freeholder and the Sheriff for doing a great job for the last seven years and making this program economically feasible and safe,” South Mountain Conservancy President Dennis Percher said. “Although we appreciate their efforts, more has to be done,” he added, requesting the county look at increasing the number of days of hunting in each reservation to five and including Eagle Rock Reservation in the program.
“I applaud the county for taking a proactive approach by continuing the deer culling to maintain the deer population in our reservations. For decades, our open spaces have suffered from deer overbrowsing, and reducing the deer population through culling, as well as forest regeneration, are considered best practices,” according to a statement by Hilltop Conservancy Treasurer Theresa Trapp that was read at the press conference.
From 2008 to 2014, a total of 1,670 deer (1,030 deer and 640 unborn deer) were removed from the three reservations utilizing the volunteer services of experienced and qualified marksmen. There were 360 deer (213 deer and 147 unborn deer) removed in 2008, 138 deer (83 deer and 55 unborn deer) removed in 2009, 252 deer (160 deer and 92 unborn deer) removed in 2010, 339 deer (187 deer and 152 unborn deer) removed in 2011, 274 deer (175 deer and 99 unborn deer) removed in 2012, 152 deer (104 deer and 48 unborn deer) in 2013 and 155 deer (108 deer and 47 unborn deer) in 2014. South Mountain Reservation is located in Maplewood, Millburn and West Orange, and Hilltop Reservation is in Cedar Grove, North Caldwell and Verona.
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.
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 2014, 2,577 pounds of venison was donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which provided over 10,000 meals for the less fortunate. Since the Essex County Deer Management Program started in 2008, over 30,000 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.
Replanting native plant species is necessary to restore the forest understory that was being destroyed by the overbrowsing of deer. The loss of this vegetation has prevented new trees from growing, created erosion problems, allowed invasive plant species to flourish and caused the number of native animal species that rely on the plants for food or protection to decline.
The third aspect of the Essex County Deer Management Program is enhancing safety on County roads by reducing the number of motor vehicle accidents involving deer. Through a pilot program with the NJ Department of Transportation, Essex County received grant money to install detection devices that reflect motor vehicle headlights and emit a high-pitched noise to scare deer away from the road when cars approach. The reflectors are installed along Cherry Lane, Brookside Drive, JFK Parkway and Parsonage Hill Road in Millburn, Livingston and West Orange. In 2014, 251 deer carcasses were removed from County roads. There were 222 deer carcasses removed from County roads in 2013, 201 deer in 2012, 233 deer in 2011, 229 deer in 2010, 284 deer in 2009, 363 deer in 2008 and 303 in 2007.