Thursday, February 11, 2010

NEW JERSEY NEWS: Culls of Hilltop Reservation Begin

The Essex County 2010 Deer Management Program began at Hilltop Reservation as scheduled on Tuesday, with several deer being culled, or killed, during a hunt conducted by trained marksmen.

"It was very successful this morning," Essex County Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura said of the program on Tuesday afternoon, citing several deer were culled from the reservation.

The management program is scheduled to continue today, as well as on Feb. 16, 18, 23 and 25. The program is also being conducted at Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange on the same dates.

The deer management program at South Mountain Reservation, which began last month, was scheduled to end today. South Mountain Reservation is located in Maplewood, Millburn and West Orange.

The Hilltop includes portions of Verona, Cedar Gove and North Caldwell. The reservation will be closed on those days to ensure the public's safety, said county officials last month.

Fontoura said sections of Fairview Avenue are also being closed on mornings and afternoons as marksmen conduct the management program for safety reasons as well. Parts of Fairview boarder the reservation.

Fontoura said Fairview Avenue will be closed between Durrell Street in Verona and Skytop Road in Cedar Grove as marksmen conduct the program.

Fontoura said Essex County Sheriff's officers are manning the roadblocks on Fairview Avenue, and monitoring the detours these roadblocks are creating through Verona and Cedar Grove.

Fontoura added Verona, Cedar Grove and North Caldwell police officers are also patrolling the area around the reservation and are on call to lend sheriff officers assistance if needed.

During the program, no more than six agents are assigned to cull Hilltop Reservation deer. The program's goal is to remove at least 50 deer from the reservation, but there is no limit to the number they can kill.

Essex County Wildlife Management Consultant Dan Bernier said volunteer, experienced marksmen are using shotguns with telescopic views and slugs to cull the deer. The hunters are shooting from tree stands 20 feet high, so that the only direction they can aim is toward the ground. All of the shooting is taking place during daylight hours.

This is the third year the county is conducting its deer management program. There were 213 deer culled from South Mountain Reservation in 2008 and 83 removed in 2009. A total of 202 unborn deer were also culled from 2008-2009.

This is the first year the program is being conducted at Hilltop and Eagle Rock Reservations.

Last fall, the Verona and Cedar Grove town councils unanimously adopted resolutions endorsing the deer-management program. The towns also signed indemnification agreements with the county, making the county liable for any injury or legal action that might occur during the program.

But those indemnification agreements didn't do much to damper the concerns of a number of area residents who showed up at Verona's last council meeting on Feb. 1 to voice their concerns about the county's deer management program at Hilltop.

One these residents, Valerie Wolfson told township officials many residents are frustrated about the program, and don't understand why the governing body decided to endorse it.

"We who love nature have been ignored," Wolfson told officials at the meeting. "There's a lot of frustration about this. We feel that we have been overlooked, and it's not fair."


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