From Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr.:
The Essex County Deer Management Program will continue for the ninth consecutive year.
The program will be conducted for six days in South Mountain Reservation on Tuesdays, January 19 and 26 and February 2 and Thursdays, January 21 and 28 and February 4 in the afternoons only.
To maximize safety, the South Mountain Reservation will be closed to the public on the days the Deer Management Program is being conducted. 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.
“We have been very successful in reducing the deer population in our reservations to a manageable level, which has enabled us to transition our program from aggressively removing deer and scaling it back to where our goal is to maintain the population. While we have made tremendous progress, it is important to continue this maintenance mode to preserve the forest habitat and maintain our reservations as viable resources for recreation and open space,” said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. in a release.
“Since we started in 2008, we have removed 1,670 deer from our reservations, started a program to accelerate the re-growth of our forests and introduced a pilot program to reduce traffic accidents involving deer. The over abundance of deer affects all of our communities, and our program provides a comprehensive approach to address the problem,” he said.
The program will also be held for seven days in Hilltop Reservation on Tuesdays, February 9, 16 and 23 and March 1 and Thursdays, February 11, 18 and 25 in the afternoons only.
From 2008 to 2015, a total of 1,773 (1,100 deer and 673 unborn deer) were removed utilizing the volunteer services of experienced and qualified marksmen. There were 103 deer ( 70 deer and 33 unborn deer) removed in 2015, 155 deer (108 deer and 47 unborn deer) removed in 2014, 152 deer (104 deer and 48 unborn deer) removed in 2013, 274 deer (175 deer and 99 unborn deer) removed in 2012, 339 deer (187 deer and 152 unborn deer) removed in 2011, 252 deer (160 deer and 92 unborn deer) removed in 2010, 138 deer (83 deer and 55 unborn deer) removed in 2009 and 360 deer (213 deer and 147 unborn deer) removed in 2008.
To maximize safety, South Mountain Reservation, Hilltop Reservation and all parking areas and roads inside the two reservations will be closed to the public on the days the program is held in that specific reservation. Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, Essex County Codey Arena, the Essex County Park-N-Ride facility and McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant in the Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex in West Orange and all County roads through the reservations will remain open. The Essex County Sheriff’s Office will coordinate safety patrols with local police departments.
Qualified, volunteer marksmen have been selected to participate in the program. The volunteers 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 will 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 will be transported to a check station where County officials will inspect the animals and collect information about its age, reproductive status, gender and weight, as well as the number of shots fired. They will then be transported by the County to a NJ Department of Health approved butcher for processing. Venison will be donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside, which will distribute the meat to the needy and homeless. In 2015, 1,668 pounds of venison were donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which provided about 6,675 meals. Since 2008, a total of 32,649 pounds of venison have been donated to the FoodBank, which equates to about 130,600 meals. Volunteer marksmen who complete at least eight (8) half-day shifts of volunteer service will receive 40 pounds of venison.
Essex County has 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 is taking place. A press release was sent to local media; advertisements were placed in The Star-Ledger and several local weekly newspapers; about 20,000 postcards were mailed to residents of Cedar Grove, Maplewood, Millburn, North Caldwell, Short Hills, Verona and West Orange who reside in districts that are close to the reservations; information was posted on the Essex County website (www.essexcountynj.org) and distributed to an e-mail database maintained by the County Executive’s Office; and electronic message boards have been placed along roadways around the reservations to notify motorists. In addition, Municipal Liaisons appointed by the County Executive will present information to the municipal governments at upcoming 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 five 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 2015, 272 deer carcasses were removed from County roads. There were 251 deer carcasses removed in 2014, 222 deer in 2013, 201 deer in 2012, 233 deer in 2011, 229 deer in 2010, 284 deer in 2009, 363 deer in 2008 and 303 in 2007.