Culling of the local deer population will return to the South Mountain Reservation for the eighth year this winter, according Essex Count Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. in order to control the deer population, protect the undergrowth in the reservations, and ensure auto safety for local motorists.
Today, DiVincenzo announced that the culling will be conducted in South Mountain Reservation and Hilltop Reservation on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Tuesday, January 27 to Thursday, February 26. The two reservations will be closed to the public on the days that the program is being conducted.
The program will be conducted for four days in South Mountain Reservation: on Tuesdays, January 27 and February 3, and Thursdays, January 29 and February 5, in the afternoons only.
It will be conducted for four days in Hilltop Reservation and the old Essex County Hospital Center site on Tuesdays, February 17 and 24 and Thursdays, February 19 and 26 in the afternoons only.
The program will not be held in Eagle Rock Reservation.
According to a release from Essex County, “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 2014, 2,577 pounds of venison was donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which provided over 10,000 meals for the less fortunate. Since the Essex County Deer Management Program started in 2008, over 30,000 pounds of venison have been donated. Volunteer marksmen who complete at least five (5) half-day shifts of volunteer service will receive 40 pounds of venison.”
According to the County, from 2008 to 2014, a total of 1,670 deer (1,030 deer and 640 unborn deer) were removed from the three reservations.
- 360 deer (213 deer and 147 unborn deer) were removed in 2008,
- 138 deer (83 deer and 55 unborn deer) were removed in 2009,
- 252 deer (160 deer and 92 unborn deer) were removed in 2010,
- 339 deer (187 deer and 152 unborn deer) were removed in 2011,
- 274 deer (175 deer and 99 unborn deer) were removed in 2012,
- 152 deer (104 deer and 48 unborn deer) were removed in 2013, and
- 155 deer (108 deer and 47 unborn deer) were removed in 2014.
In years past, the program has attracted protests from animal rights advocates, but has garnered the support of local elected officials as well as the South Mountain Conservancy which noted that the overpopulation of deer was contributing to “deer browsing continu[ing] to strip the forests of their ground-level understory, eradicating the saplings needed to replace aging trees.”
“Continuing this program is essential to protecting open space and preventing the reservations and forests from being destroyed by deer overbrowsing,” said a press release from Essex County.
The County is supporting reforestation of the Reservation through a replanting program underway in South Mountain Reservation and Eagle Rock Reservation. According to the County release, “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.”
In addition, County officials say the culling is also important to improve automotive safety: In 2014, according to Essex County officials, 251 deer carcasses were removed from County roads. There were 222 deer carcasses removed from County roads 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.