Essex County Culled 154 Deer from S. Mountain, Hilltop Reservations

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From the office of Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.:

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that 154 deer were removed from Essex County South Mountain Reservation and Essex County Hilltop Reservation during the 2016 Essex County Deer Management Program. 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.

“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 to maintaining 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,” the Executive pointed out. “Since we started in 2008, we have removed over 1,000 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 overabundance of deer affects all of our communities, and our program provides a comprehensive approach to address the problem,” he said.

During the 10 days, there were 154 deer removed (along with 86 unborn deer). The program was conducted on five days in South Mountain Reservation on Tuesdays, January 19th and February 2nd and Thursdays, January 21st and 28th and February 4th in the afternoons only. It was held for five days in Hilltop Reservation on Tuesdays, February 9th and March 1st and Thursdays, February 11th, 18th and 25th in the afternoons only. The program was cancelled on Tuesdays, January 26th and February 16th and 23rd because of inclement weather. 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.

The results from this year are as follows:



Unborn deer


South Mountain Reservation

Tuesday, January 19th




Thursday, January 21st




Tuesday, January 26th


Thursday, January 28th




Tuesday, February 2nd




Thursday, February 4th




Hilltop Reservation

Tuesday, February 9th




Thursday, February 11th




Tuesday, February 16th


Thursday, February 18th




Tuesday, February 23rd


Thursday, February 25th




Tuesday, March 1st








From 2008 to 2015, a total of 1,773 deer (1,100 deer and 673 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, 152 deer (104 deer and 48 unborn deer) removed in 2013, 155 deer (108 deer and 47 unborn deer) removed in 2014 and 103 deer (70 deer and 33 unborn deer) removed in 2015.

To maximize safety, South Mountain Reservation, Hilltop Reservation 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. Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, Essex County Codey Arena, the Essex County Park-N-Ride facility, McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant in West Orange and all county roads 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 2016, 3,803 pounds of venison were donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which provided about 15,200 meals. Since 2008, more than 36,000 pounds of venison have been donated to the FoodBank, which equates to about 150,000 meals. Volunteer marksmen who completed at least eight 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. 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 ( 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 presented 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 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 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.

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