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108 Deer Killed in 2014 Culling, Essex County Executive Says

More than 100 deer killed in South Mountain Reservation and Hilltop Reservation during eight-day program

A deer at The James A. McFaul Environmental Center/Photo: Joseph M. Gerace
A deer at The James A. McFaul Environmental Center/Photo: Joseph M. Gerace

The following was submitted by Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.:

One hundred and eight deer were killed in Essex County South Mountain Reservation and Essex County Hilltop Reservation during the 2014 Essex County Deer Management Program. This year’s program was greatly impacted by the snow, which caused two days of the program to be cancelled. Reducing the number of deer is part of an ongoing initiative by the administration to preserve and restore the forest ecology in Essex County’s open spaces and address motor vehicle accidents involving deer.

“The overabundance of deer continues to affect of our communities, and our program provides a comprehensive approach to address the problem. During the past seven years, we have conducted a culling program to maintain the size of the deer herd, started a program to accelerate the re-growth of our forests and introduced a pilot program to reduce traffic accidents involving deer,” DiVincenzo said. “Snowstorms and frigid temperatures caused us to reduce the number of days this year, but the results we saw indicate how important it is to continue so that we can preserve the forest habitat and maintain our reservations as viable resources for recreation and open space,” he added.

During the six days, there were 108 deer removed (along with 47 unborn deer). The program was scheduled for four days in South Mountain Reservation on Tuesdays, January 21st and 28th and Thursdays, January 23rd and 30th in the afternoon only and for four days in Hilltop Reservation and the old Essex County Hospital Center site on Tuesdays, February 4th and 11th and Thursdays, February 6th and 13th in the afternoon only. Snow cancelled the program on Tuesday, January 21st in South Mountain and on Thursday, February 13th in 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 results from this year are as follows:

South Mountain Reservation

Tuesday, Jan. 21

  • Cancelled

Thursday, Jan. 23

  • # Deer: 28
  • # Unborn: 8
  • Total: 36

Tuesday, Jan. 28

  • # Deer: 17
  • # Unborn: 13
  • Total: 30

Thursday, Jan. 30

  • # Deer: 7 
  • # Unborn: 1
  • Total: 8

Hilltop Reservation and Old Hospital Center

Tuesday, Feb. 4

  • # Deer: 50
  • # Unborn: 21
  • Total: 71

Thursday, Feb. 6

  • # Deer: 0
  • # Unborn: 0
  • Total: 0

Tuesday, Feb. 11

  • # Deer: 6
  • # Unborn: 4
  • Total: 10

Thursday, Feb. 13

  • Cancelled

Total

  • # Deer: 108
  • # Unborn: 47
  • Total: 155 

From 2008 to 2014, a total of 1,670 deer (1,030 deer and 640 unborn deer) were removed from the three reservations utilizing the volunteer services of experienced and qualified marksmen. There were 360 deer (213 deer and 147 unborn deer) removed in 2008, 138 deer (83 deer and 55 unborn deer) removed in 2009, 252 deer (160 deer and 92 unborn deer) removed in 2010, 339 deer (187 deer and 152 unborn deer) removed in 2011, 274 deer (175 deer and 99 unborn deer) removed in 2012 and 152 deer (104 deer and 48 unborn deer) removed in 2013.

To maximize safety, South Mountain Reservation, Hilltop Reservation, the Old Hospital Center Site and all parking areas and roads inside the two reservations were closed to the public on the days the program was held in that specific reservation. Part of Fairview Avenue in Cedar Grove and Verona was closed to traffic, but all other county roadways remained open. Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, Essex County Codey Arena, the Essex County Park-N-Ride facility and McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant in West Orange also remained open. The Essex County Sheriff’s Office coordinated safety patrols with local police departments.

Qualified, volunteer marksmen were selected to participate in the program. The volunteers were licensed by the State of New Jersey and 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 stationed themselves in trees at least 20 feet above the ground and only took shots at a downward angle.

All deer removed from the reservations were transported to a check station where County officials inspected the animals and collected information about its age, reproductive status, gender and weight, as well as the number of shots fired. They were then 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 less fortunate and homeless. In 2014, 2,577 pounds of venison were donated to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, which provided about 10,300 meals. Since 2008, almost 31,000 pounds of venison have been donated to the FoodBank, which equates to about 124,000 meals. Volunteer marksmen who completed at least five half-day shifts of volunteer service received 40 pounds of venison.

Essex County used a variety of means to notify the public about the Deer Management Program and the closure of the reservations to the public while the program was taking place. A press conference was held on January 16th, and advertisements were placed in The Star-Ledger and several local weekly newspapers. Over 85,000 postcards were mailed to residents in Cedar Grove, Maplewood, Millburn, North Caldwell, Short Hills, Verona and West Orange; information was posted on the Essex County website and distributed to an e-mail database maintained by the County Executive’s Office; and electronic message boards were placed along roadways around the reservations to notify motorists. In addition, Municipal Liaisons appointed by the County Executive presented information to the municipal governments at public meetings.

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 5 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 2013, 222 deer were removed from County roads. There were 201 deer removed in 2012, 233 deer removed from County roads in 2011, 229 deer in 2010, 284 deer in 2009, 363 deer in 2008 and 303 in 2007.

jfc March 18, 2014 at 10:57 AM
Oh deer, so necessary but so sad.
Tom G. March 18, 2014 at 12:08 PM
Why have they not been doing the hunt in the Eagle Rock Reservation the past couple years? The deer are running rampant all over my neighborhood.
Julie Pauly March 18, 2014 at 02:36 PM
Are there figures for the estimated live deer remaining? Regardless of what side of the debate you're on, the ideal herd size and the estimated live population are relevant figures in the discussion.
Kelaker March 18, 2014 at 04:12 PM
Is there any chance that we can get the hunt broadened to include Cedar Grove community park. is there anything like rat poison that we can use to keep the deer under control.
Adam Kraemer March 18, 2014 at 06:32 PM
Unless - You want wolves back in the woods of Essex County to keep the deer population in balance this is a must do

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