WEST ORANGE, N.J. (CBS 2) — Sharpshooters are ready to take aim at deer for Essex County’s fourth deer hunt, but some residents and animal rights activists are outraged.

Sharpshooters perched in trees will hunt deer at three county reservations, including South Mountain, which is right behind Frances Holland’s house in West Orange.

She said the reason she moved there was to be near nature and to watch deer.

“There are virtually no deer left,” Holland said. “I think I’ve seen, over the past year, two deer.”

Holland has spoken out against the hunt, and she’s even sued the county – unsuccessfully. Now, the former attorney is preparing herself for the sound of gunshots during the 12-day hunt in January and February.

“You have a civilian militia, which is what these hunters are,” Holland said. “They are volunteer civilians coming in with guns adjacent to people’s homes.”

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said the reservations will be closed during the hunt, and that volunteer sharpshooters are licensed by the state after having completed safety courses.

DiVincenzo said the hunt is necessary because deer are eating forest vegetation, destroying lawns and causing car accidents.

“When we first started out in 2008, we had 363 carcasses removed from our roadways, and they were deer that were killed by cars,” DiVincenzo said.

The number of car accidents this year, he said, has dropped to 114.

The county is also using deer reflectors to prevent deer from running into roadways.

Ralph DiMeo, who takes his dog for walks in South Mountain, said he supports the hunt.

“We keep hearing they are over-browsing and crowding out other animals by taking up too much of the habitat,” said DiMeo, a South Orange resident.

Marksmen will position themselves 20 feet above ground and shoot straight down on the deer. County officials said they will take every precaution to make sure residents are safe.

In previous years, the county has reduced the deer population by 750 – the target in this hunt will be 200 deer.

Residents will be given notices, and signs will be posted, warning them of the hours sharpshooters will be in the reservations.

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