Hunters climb 20 feet into trees in suburban parks, aiming not just for deer but for pregnant ones — in one of the most macho operations that Essex County runs, the annual deer management program in South Mountain, Eagle Rock and Hilltop Reservations.
But Joe DiVincenzo, who is known to have fun at some of his news conferences, like the time he donned a hard hat to take the first whack at demolishing Overlook Asylum, played it absolutely straight for this one.
Flanked by Essex County Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura on one side and Wildlife Management Consultant Daniel Bernier on the other, and wearing a chalk-stripe suit, County Executive Joe DiVincenzo told reporters yesterday that the 2011 deer hunt was a success with 187 deer shot and 152 deer fetuses eliminated, culling the deer population by a total of 339. The numbers would have been higher, he added, if snow hadn’t cancelled two of the 12 hunting days set aside.
The biggest numbers this year came from the hunt in the Hilltoop Reservation, an area where the deer population is seriously out of control, DiVincenzo said. “They’re in herds,” he said. “They’re walking up Bradford Avenue in herds.”
At one point in the conference, DiVincenzo held up a copy of the Verona-Cedar Grove Times with a headline about deer-vehicle collisions, and he shook his head in disbelief at animal rights activists who would stop the county’s deer population efforts. “What is is going to take? For someone to get killed on our roadways? It upsets me because they just don’t get it.”
Consultant Daniel Bernier told reporters that many of the pregnant deer were carrying twins or triplets, and in one case, quadruplets. But he did not think the multiples were evidence of what he termed the “so-called rebound effect,” which posits that the reproductive rate of deer goes up when their numbers are thinned, canceling out the benefits of a deer hunt.
Bernier also said it wasn’t feasible for the county to use immuno-contraceptives to control the deer population in Essex County. He explained why in the video below.
DiVincenzo, who told the New York Times in 2008 that the deer hunt issue was so emotional that he’d received death threats, declined to say whether there’d been any threats this year. Sheriff Fontoura quickly took the microphone to say, “We do not discuss threats on public officials. Whatever problems arise, we’re prepared to deal with.”
“I’m not a hunter. I don’t own a gun,” DiVincenzo added. “I don’t do this to be popular.”
He said the hunt is a model for counties around the state and would be held again next year. The venison from the 2011 hunt is expected to provide 25,000 meals for the Food Bank of New Jersey.