The Hilltop Reservation on Verona’s western ridge will be closed to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Tuesday, February 4, to Thursday, February 13, for Essex County’s seventh hunt to reduce the deer population there. There will also be a hunt again in South Mountain Reservation on Tuesdays, January 21 and 28, and Thursdays, January 23 and 30, in the afternoon only.
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. said today that while the county’s deer management program had eliminated 908 deer from the county’s reservations since 2008, more needs to be done. “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,” he 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.”
There will be no hunt Eagle Rock Reservation this year. When the effort to curb the deer population began in 2008, it was held in the morning and afternoon on 12 days for a total of 24 sessions while this year’s program includes eight days with just eight sessions. The large deer population in the reservations had sharply reduced the vegetation there, reducing habitats of other species and opening the parklands to erosion. The county has begun to replant the forests with native plants, shrubs and trees.
South Mountain Reservation, Hilltop Reservation, the Old Essex County Hospital Center Site 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. Part of Fairview Avenue in Cedar Grove and Verona will be closed to traffic, but all other county roadways will remain 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 will remain open. The Essex County Sheriff’s Office will coordinate safety patrols with local police departments.
Once again the hunt will be conducted by qualified, volunteer marksmen and venison will be donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside, which will distribute the meat to the needy and homeless. In 2013, 2,291 pounds of venison was donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which provided over 9,000 meals for needy families. Since the Essex County Deer Management Program started in 2008, over 28,000 pounds of venison have been donated.