WEST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — In New Jersey, a very selective deer hunt was underway Tuesday.

And as CBS 2’s John Slattery reported, Essex County officials said the sixth annual hunt is a continuing effort to cull the deer population.

At three wooded reservations in Essex County, don’t be surprised if you hear the crack of a gun, or see a hunter going into the woods this week.

“We’re not trying to get rid of deer,” said Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo. “We’re just trying to reduce the population.”

The problem is that deer that have depleted the underbrush and have spilled out into neighborhoods. Certain areas, including North Caldwell, Verona and Cedar Grove, have spotted too many of the white-tailed visitors.

The deer eat landscaping, can spread Lyme disease, and can be a danger to vehicles – although that problem has improved.

“It’s significantly down — the number of accidents between deer and vehicles — from when we started,” said Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura.

There were 400 accidents six years ago and 200 last year. Residents near the areas where the deer have been culled received postcards warning them that the woods will be closed for six days over the next two weeks.

The so-called Deer Control Program includes 15 licensed and trained hunters who perch themselves 20 feet up on tree stands.

Last year, 274 deer were shot in the woods. In North Caldwell, where deer are routinely photographed by residents, some people protested the program. But David Beattie of Fairfield said he supports it.

“I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “There’s just way too many of them.”

Cathy Klein of North Caldwell, on the other hand, said she has mixed feelings.

“It’s not the greatest, most humane way to do it,” she said, “but it’s a problem, and right now, I support it.”

Despite some organized opposition, county officials look upon the program as a way of controlling a pest.

The deer are butchered and donated to a community food bank, which last year provided more than 4,700 pounds of venison to the needy.

Do you think the deer hunt is a good idea? Leave your comments below…


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