ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Essex County recently announced that 89 deer and 56 unborn deer were removed from South Mountain Reservation and Hilltop Reservation during the 2017 deer management program. The program, which was held on six days between Jan. 17 and Feb. 14, is geared toward revitalizing the forest ecology by reducing the number of deer. This was the 10th year the program was held.
“Controlling the population by removing deer from South Mountain and Hilltop has proven to be very successful in helping to preserve the forest habitat and maintain our reservations as viable resources for recreation and open space. Each year, we have updated our program to address current conditions, reducing the number of days and transitioning into a ‘maintenance mode’ to maintain the population at a manageable level,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said in a press release. “This is just one facet of our comprehensive deer management program that also includes creating seed banks to accelerate the re-growth of the forests and installing reflectors and lights to enhance traffic safety by keeping deer from entering the roadway.”
In South Mountain Reservation, the program was held on the afternoons Jan. 19 and 26. There were 48 deer and 34 unborn deer culled from South Mountain in those two days. In Hilltop Reservation, the program was held Jan. 31, and Feb. 2, 7 and 14. There were 41 deer and 22 unborn deer culled from Hilltop in those four days.
For the first time, makeup days were scheduled in case the program was postponed due to inclement weather. The program was canceled on Jan. 17 and 24 in South Mountain and on Feb. 9 in Hilltop.
With this year’s totals, there have been 1,343 deer and 815 unborn deer removed utilizing the volunteer services of experienced and qualified marksmen. They 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 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 were inspected and information about its age, reproductive status, gender and weight, as well as the number of shots fired was collected. They were transported by the County to a NJ Department of Health-approved butcher for processing. Venison was donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside, which distributed the meat to the needy and homeless. In 2017, 1,938 pounds of venison were donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which provided about 7,900 meals. Since 2008, a total of 38,420 pounds of venison have been donated to the FoodBank, which equates to about 153,700 meals. Volunteer marksmen who complete at least four half-day shifts of volunteer service receive 40 pounds of venison.