WEST ORANGE, NJ - There will be no deer culling this year in Eagle Rock Reservation, according to Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, who held a Press Conference today at South Mountain Recreation Complex to outline plans for the 6th Annual Deer Management Program. However, South Mountain and Hilltop Reservations, along with the old Essex County Hospital site, have scheduled dates for the management program: dates for South Mountain Reservation will be Tuesday January 22 and 29 and January 24, afternoon only; for Hilltop Reservation and the old Essex County Hospital site, the dates will be mornings and afternoons January Thursdays, January 31 and February 7, and Tuesday, February 5. The areas will be closed to the public on those days.
During the first five years of our Deer Management Program, we have been very successful in reducing the deer population in our reservations to a manageable level. This has enabled us to transition our program from aggressively removing deer and scale back our program to where our goal is to maintain the population,” DiVincenzo said. “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,”
“Over the last five years, we have removed over 800 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.
Since 2008, volunteer, experienced marksmen reduced the deer population by 1,363 deer (818 deer and 545 unborn deer). As to any problems involving the public, Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said “Zero. That’s the number of incidents we have had during the first five years of this program and that’s how many I expect we will have this year. We work with our municipal partners to develop and executive a good plan,”“The numbers shows this is definitely working.”
After the deer are transported to a check station, they are examined, information about them is collected about its age, reproductive status, gender and weight, and how many shots were fired. A Essex County Department of Health approved butcher will then process the meat, and the venison is donated to the Community Food Bank in Hillside, NJ. Last year, 4,572 pounds of venison were donated to the Food Bank. Volunteer marksmen receive 40 pounds of venison complete at least 5 half-day shifts.
An aggressive and proactive replanting program to accelerate regrowth has also been underway in South Mountain and Eagle Rock Reservations (42 enclosures in South Mountain and 5 in Eagle Rock), where native vegetation has been seeded and will be transplanted around the reservations as plants mature. 8 foot fences that allow rodents and birds, but prohibit larger animals from entering, will remain in place for approximately 25 years. The NJ Green Acres program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund provided grants to the South Mountain and Eagle Rock Conservancies.
In addition to culling and replanting, a third component of the Deer Management Program is the installation of detection devices that reflect motor vehicle headlights and emit a high-pitched noise to scare deer off busy public roads. Funded through a pilot program with the New Jersey Department of Transportation, reflectors are now installed along Cherry Lane, Brookside Drive, JFK Parkway and Parsonage Hill Road in Millburn, Livingston, and West Orange. The county reports that in 2012, 201 deer were killed and removed from county roads. This initiative will not only protect the public, but the deer as well.