In January and February, Essex County held its first deer management program in the Hilltop Reservation and South Mountain Reservation since 2019. Yesterday, the county announced that 59 of the 152 deer killed by program marksmen were taken at the Hilltop Reservation, which is located in Verona. Another 39 unborn deer were also killed in Verona, out of a total of 88 unborn deer taken in both parks.
“Controlling the population by removing deer from South Mountain and Hilltop has proven to be very successful in helping to preserve the forest habitat and maintain our reservations as viable resources for recreation and open space,” Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. said in a statement. “Each year, we have updated our program to address current conditions, adjusting the number and schedule of days and transitioning into a ‘maintenance mode’ to keep the population at a manageable level.”
Since 2008, a total of 3,057 deer (1,926 deer and 1,131 unborn deer) have been taken in county reservations by qualified, volunteer marksmen. When in the reservations, the marksmen are stationed in trees at least 20 feet above the ground and only take shots at a downward angle.
To maximize safety, South Mountain Reservation, Hilltop Reservation, Cedar Grove Park and all parking areas and walking paths inside the reservations were closed to the public on the days the program was held in that specific reservation.
All deer removed from the reservations were inspected and information about age, reproductive status, gender and weight; the number of shots fired was also collected, but not released by the county. The carcasses were taken to a butcher approved by the New Jersey Department of Health for processing. Venison was donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside, which distributed the meat to feed the needy and homeless. This year, 4,405 pounds of venison were donated to the food bank, bringing the total since 2008 to 51,480 pounds of venison.