County deer management program culled 139 cervids

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — The county announced on March 2 that a total of 139 deer and 73 unborn deer were removed from South Mountain Reservation and Hilltop Reservation during the 11th annual Deer Management Program. The program was held over 11 days between Jan. 16 and Feb. 27.

“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 Jr. said. “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.”

Over the course of five days, 87 deer and 43 unborn deer were killed in South Mountain Reservation. Over the course of six days, 52 deer and 30 unborn deer were killed at Hilltop Reservation. South Mountain Reservation is located in Maplewood, Millburn and West Orange, and Hilltop Reservation is in Cedar Grove, North Caldwell and Verona. The program was not held in Eagle Rock Reservation.

Since 2008, a total of 2,370 deer — 1,482 deer and 888 unborn deer — have been removed utilizing the services of experienced and qualified marksmen who volunteer their time. 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 their age, reproductive status, gender and weight, as well as the number of shots fired was collected. They were transported by the county to a New Jersey Department of Health-approved butcher for processing. Venison was donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside, which distributes the meat to the needy and homeless. In 2018, 3,439 pounds of venison were donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which will use it to provide approximately 13,750 meals. Volunteer marksmen who completed at least seven half-day shifts of volunteer service received 40 pounds of venison.