Yesterday, January 12, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that the Essex County Deer Management Program will continue for the ninth consecutive year. The program will be conducted in South Mountain Reservation and Hilltop Reservation on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons through March 1. The program will not be held in Eagle Rock Reservation.
Both reservations will be closed to the public on the days the Deer Management Program is being conducted.
“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,” DiVincenzo said. “Since we started in 2008, we have removed 1,670 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 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.
From 2008 to 2015, a total of 1,773 (1,100 deer and 673 unborn deer) were removed. There were 103 deer ( 70 deer and 33 unborn deer) removed in 2015, 155 deer (108 deer and 47 unborn deer) removed in 2014, 152 deer (104 deer and 48 unborn deer) removed in 2013, 274 deer (175 deer and 99 unborn deer) removed in 2012, 339 deer (187 deer and 152 unborn deer) removed in 2011, 252 deer (160 deer and 92 unborn deer) removed in 2010, 138 deer (83 deer and 55 unborn deer) removed in 2009 and 360 deer (213 deer and 147 unborn deer) removed in 2008.
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 2015, 1,668 pounds of venison were donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which provided about 6,675 meals. Since 2008, a total of 32,649 pounds of venison have been donated to the FoodBank, which equates to about 130,600 meals. Volunteer marksmen who complete at least eight (8) half-day shifts of volunteer service will receive 40 pounds of venison.
In addition to culling the deer herd, an aggressive replanting program to accelerate the regrowth of the forests is underway in South Mountain Reservation and Eagle Rock Reservation. Forty-seven enclosures (42 in South Mountain and five in Eagle Rock) have been installed where native vegetative species have been planted so their seeds can be reintroduced into the area as the plants mature. The eight-foot high fences are designed to prevent deer and other large animals from foraging on the newly planted areas, but allow smaller animals, such as rodents and birds, to enter and exit. The fences will remain in place for about 25 years. The planting project was funded with grants from the NJ Green Acres program received by the South Mountain Conservancy and the Eagle Rock Conservancy and grants from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund.
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 2015, 272 deer carcasses were removed from County roads. There were 251 deer carcasses removed in 2014, 222 deer 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.