Essex County is resuming its program to reduce the deer populations in two county parks in our area. It will bring volunteer marksmen into South Mountain Reservation and the Hilltop Reservation for several days in January and February, beginning next week. The program, which is held to reduce the over-browsing that had been damaging the parks’ ecosystems, had been suspended during the pandemic.
The program will be held in South Mountain Reservation on Tuesdays, January 10, 17, 24 and 31 and February 7 and 14. For the Hilltop, the dates are Thursdays, January 12, 19 and 26 and February 2, 9 and 16. There will be no hunt in Eagle Rock Reservation this year. The marksmen will be in trees at least 20 feet above the ground and only take shots at a downward angle.
South Mountain Reservation, Hilltop Reservation, Cedar Grove Park and all parking areas and walking paths inside the reservations will be closed to the public on the days the program is held in that specific reservation. Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, Essex County Codey Arena, the Essex County Park-N-Ride facility and McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant in the Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex in West Orange and all County roads through the reservations will remain open.
Since 2008, a total of 2,817 deer (1,774 deer and 1,043 unborn deer) have been removed from county parks. The county takes the carcasses to a New Jersey Department of Health-approved butcher for processing, and the venison is donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside. Since 2008, more than 47,075 pounds of venison have been donated to the FoodBank, which the county says equates to more than 168,000 meals.