09 Mar ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO ANNOUNCES RESULTS OF 2015 DEER MANAGEMENT PROGRAM 70 Deer Removed from Essex County South Mountain Reservation and Hilltop Reservation During Eight-Day Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 9, 2015

ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO ANNOUNCES RESULTS

OF 2015 DEER MANAGEMENT PROGRAM

70 Deer Removed from Essex County South Mountain Reservation

and Hilltop Reservation During Eight-Day Program

West Orange, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that 70 deer were removed from Essex County South Mountain Reservation and Essex County Hilltop Reservation during the 2015 Essex County Deer Management Program. This year’s program was greatly impacted by the winter weather. A snowstorm caused the first day to be cancelled and frigid temperatures and icy conditions severely impacted the results on at least three other days. Reducing the number of deer is part of an ongoing initiative by the administration to preserve and restore the forest ecology in Essex County’s open spaces and address motor vehicle accidents involving deer.

“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. 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,” the Executive pointed out. “Since we started in 2008, we have removed 1,030 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.

During the seven days, there were 70 deer removed (along with 33 unborn deer). The program was conducted for four days in South Mountain Reservation on Tuesdays, January 27th and February 3rd and Thursdays, January 29th and February 5th in the afternoons only. Snow cancelled the program on January 27th and freezing temperatures led to no deer being culled on February 3rd and 5th. It was held for four days in Hilltop Reservation and the old Essex County Hospital Center site on Tuesdays, February 17th and 24th and Thursdays, February 19th and 26th in the afternoons only. Winter weather resulted in no deer being culled on the last day of the program on February 26th. The program was not held in Eagle Rock Reservation.

The results from this year are as follows:

Date

Deer

Unborn deer

Total

South Mountain Reservation

Tuesday, January 27th

Cancelled – Snow

Thursday, January 29th

31

13

44

Tuesday, February 3rd

0

0

0

Thursday, February 5th

0

0

0

Hilltop Reservation and Old Hospital Site

Tuesday, February 17th

27

8

35

Thursday, February 19th

7

5

12

Tuesday, February 24th

5

7

12

Thursday, February 26th

0

0

0

Total

70

33

103

From 2008 to 2014, a total of 1,670 deer (1,030 deer and 640 unborn deer) were removed from the three reservations utilizing the volunteer services of experienced and qualified marksmen. There were 360 deer (213 deer and 147 unborn deer) removed in 2008, 138 deer (83 deer and 55 unborn deer) removed in 2009, 252 deer (160 deer and 92 unborn deer) removed in 2010, 339 deer (187 deer and 152 unborn deer) removed in 2011, 274 deer (175 deer and 99 unborn deer) removed in 2012, 152 deer (104 deer and 48 unborn deer) removed in 2013 and 155 deer (108 deer and 47 unborn deer) removed in 2014.

To maximize safety, South Mountain Reservation, Hilltop Reservation, the Old Hospital Center Site and all parking areas and roads inside the two reservations were closed to the public on the days the program was held in that specific reservation. Part of Fairview Avenue in Cedar Grove and Verona was closed to traffic, but all other county roadways remained 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 also remained open. The Essex County Sheriff’s Office coordinated safety patrols with local police departments.

Qualified, volunteer marksmen were selected to participate in the program. The volunteers were licensed by the State of New Jersey and demonstrated their marksmanship ability and completed an orientation program with the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs and the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. When in the reservations, the agents stationed themselves in trees at least 20 feet above the ground and only took shots at a downward angle.

All deer removed from the reservations were transported to a check station where County officials inspected the animals and collected information about its age, reproductive status, gender and weight, as well as the number of shots fired. They were then transported by the County to a NJ Department of Health approved butcher for processing. Venison was donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside, which distributed the meat to the less fortunate and homeless. In 2015, 1,668 pounds of venison were donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which provided about 6,675 meals. Since 2008, a total of 32,649 pounds of venison have been donated to the FoodBank, which equates to about 130,600 meals. Volunteer marksmen who completed at least four (4) half-day shifts of volunteer service received 40 pounds of venison.

Essex County used a variety of means to notify the public about the Deer Management Program and the closure of the reservations to the public while the program was taking place. A press conference was held on January 20th, advertisements were placed in The Star-Ledger and several local weekly newspapers. About 30,000 postcards were mailed to residents of Cedar Grove, Maplewood, Millburn, North Caldwell, Short Hills, Verona and West Orange who reside in districts that are close to the reservations; information was posted on the Essex County website (www.essexcountynj.org) and distributed to an e-mail database maintained by the County Executive’s Office; and electronic message boards have been placed along roadways around the reservations to notify motorists. In addition, Municipal Liaisons appointed by the County Executive presented information to the municipal governments at upcoming public meetings.

In addition to culling the deer herd, an aggressive replanting program to accelerate the regrowth of the forests is underway in South Mountain Reservation and Eagle Rock Reservation. Forty-seven enclosures (42 in South Mountain and 5 in Eagle Rock) have been installed where native vegetative species have been planted so their seeds can be reintroduced into the area as the plants mature. The eight-foot high fences are designed to prevent deer and other large animals from foraging on the newly planted areas, but allow smaller animals, such as rodents and birds, to enter and exit. The fences will remain in place for about 25 years. The planting project was funded with grants from the NJ Green Acres program received by the South Mountain Conservancy and the Eagle Rock Conservancy and grants from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund.

Replanting native plant species is necessary to restore the forest understory that was being destroyed by the overbrowsing of deer. The loss of this vegetation has prevented new trees from growing, created erosion problems, allowed invasive plant species to flourish and caused the number of native animal species that rely on the plants for food or protection to decline.

The third aspect of the Essex County Deer Management Program is enhancing safety on County roads by reducing the number of motor vehicle accidents involving deer. Through a pilot program with the NJ Department of Transportation, Essex County received grant money to install detection devices that reflect motor vehicle headlights and emit a high-pitched noise to scare deer away from the road when cars approach. The reflectors are installed along Cherry Lane, Brookside Drive, JFK Parkway and Parsonage Hill Road in Millburn, Livingston and West Orange. In 2014, 251 deer carcasses were removed from County roads. There were 222 deer carcasses removed from County roads in 2013, 201 deer in 2012, 233 deer in 2011, 229 deer in 2010, 284 deer in 2009, 363 deer in 2008 and 303 in 2007.

Contact: Anthony Puglisi
973-621-2542
Lauren Shears
973-621-1590