12th annual Deer Management Program culls 300 deer

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — On Tuesday, March 12, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. announced that a total of 200 deer and 100 unborn deer were removed from South Mountain Reservation and Hilltop Reservation during the 12th annual Deer Management Program. The program was held over 12 days between Jan. 15 and March 5.

“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,” DiVincenzo 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 six hunt days at South Mountain Reservation, located in Maplewood, Millburn and West Orange, 101 deer were killed and 41 unborn deer were killed. Over the course of six hunt days at Hilltop Reservation, located in Cedar Grove, North Caldwell and Verona, 99 deer were killed and 59 unborn deer were killed. The program was not held in Eagle Rock Reservation.

Since 2008, a total of 2,670 deer — 1,682 deer and 988 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.

To maximize safety, South Mountain Reservation, Hilltop Reservation and all parking areas and walking paths inside the two reservations were closed to the public on the days the program was held in that specific reservation. Turtle Back Zoo, Codey Arena, the park-n-ride facility and McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant, as well as all county roads through the reservations, remained open. The Essex County Sheriff’s Office coordinated safety patrols with local police departments.

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 N.J. 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 2019, 5,216 pounds of venison were donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Since 2008, a total of 47,075 pounds of venison have been donated to the FoodBank, which equates to more than 168,000 meals. Volunteer marksmen who completed at least seven half-day shifts of volunteer service received 40 pounds of venison.