Essex County will again be culling the deer herd in Verona’s Hilltop Reservation, with hunts scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays in February. The Hilltop will be closed to the public on February 6, 8, 13, 15, 20 and 22, with make-up days on February 27 or March 1 if bad weather forces the cancellations of other days.
The deer management program, now in its 11th year, was implemented to preserve natural habitats on the Hilltop. It has also been carried out at South Mountain and Eagle Rock reservations, removing more than 2,000 deer from county parks. When in the reservations, the marksmen station themselves in trees at least 20 feet above the ground and only take shots at a downward angle.
Venison processed from the hunts is donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside. As of last year, more than 36,000 pounds of venison had been donated to the FoodBank, for about 145,000 meals. Volunteer marksmen who complete at least eight half-day shifts of volunteer service receive 40 pounds of venison for their services.
In addition to culling the deer herd, Essex County has also been replanting native plants in South Mountain 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. The eight-foot high fences are designed to prevent deer and other large animals from foraging on the planted areas, but allow smaller animals, such as rodents and birds, to enter and exit. Verona’s Hilltop Conservancy has been doing similar habitat restoration in the Hilltop Reservation.
For more information on the deer management program call 973-621-4400.