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Essex County Scales Back Annual Deer Hunt

The county's deer management program is less than half last year's sessions; hunting will take place at South Mountain Reservation on Jan. 22, 24 and 29.

The sixth year of Essex County's deer management program —slated to begin Jan. 22 — has been scaled back from previous years, County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said Tuesday. 

The program has been reduced from last year's 24 hunting sessions in 12 days to nine sessions in six days. It will run from Jan. 22 to Feb. 7 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Also this year, there will be no hunting in Eagle Rock Reservation.

"This program, in my mind, is more of a maintenance program each and every year just to maintain what we have,"  DiVincenzo said. "The numbers speak for themselves."

On county roadways, the number of deer carcases removed last year was down to 201, from 363 in 2011.

Verona Township Manager Joseph Martin said he thought the deer management program was "well thought out, well managed and effective."

"It was a difficult decision for the county to undertake but I feel that Verona has benefitted from it," he said Tuesday at a press conference in West Orange. 

But Mel Levine, the borough administrator for North Caldwell, said although the numbers for the county roads are down, accidents on local roads are up.

"The county has limitations and what we need to do as communities is create a working relationship with the county because no town could do this themselves," Levine said.

Hunting will take place at South Mountain Reservation on Tuesdays, Jan. 22 and Jan. 29 and Thursday, Jan. 24 in the afternoon only. It will be held in Hilltop Reservation and the old Essex County Hospital Center site in the mornings and afternoons on Thursdays, January 31st and Feb. 7 and Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Although the program dates have been reduced, there is still no limit to the number of deer culled by hunters. 

Fifteen licensed and specially trained hunters volunteered for the program this year, down seven from last year. The hunters will be perched in trees and must be at least 20 feet off the ground. 

According to county officials, over 75,000 postcards were mailed to notify residents living near the reservations of the program dates to ensure residents' safety.

Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said there will be no overtime costs for police. 

After the deer are removed, DiVincenzo said, they are given to a state Department of Health-approved butcher and donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside.

In 2012, 4,572 pounds of venison were donated to the food bank, which provided about 18,000 meals for needy families.

The county has also begun a replanting project in South Mountain and Eagle Rock Reservations. Forty-seven enclosures, 42 in South Mountain and five in Eagle Rock, with high fences to keep animals out have been installed to accelerate forest regrowth. NJ Green Acres funded the project. 

Since 2008, 1,368 deer have been culled from the three reservations, according to statistics provided by county officials. In 2012, 274 deer were removed, 339 deer were removed in 2011, 252 in 2010, 138 in 2009 and 360 in 2008. 

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