UNION COUNTY — The annual deer hunt in the Watchung Reservation will begin Monday, March 2.

This year's Watchung Reservation Deer Management Program will operate from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday, March 2 through Wednesday, March 4. In the event of inclement weather on any of those days, the program will occur on Thursday, March 5 and Friday, March 6. The program will not extend past Friday, March 6.

Twelve marksmen, chosen by the county from among experienced, licensed hunters, most of whom have previously participated in the Union County program, have been selected to serve on a voluntary basis. The deer that are killed will be processed at a USDA-approved butcher. Venison will be distributed to the needy and homeless through the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.

The Watchung Reservation will not be closed to the public during the deer management program, but portions of some roadways inside the park may be closed for short periods, if necessary. Park patrons are urged to say on the marked hiking, walking and bridle trails.

From 1996-99, the county's state-approved deer management program worked to reduce the number of deer in the Watchung Reservation from an estimated 180 deer per square mile to the goal density of 20 deer per square mile. This goal was achieved one year earlier than anticipated. The program currently underway, begun in 2000, changed the emphasis from reduction to maintenance of that density level.

Teams of agents will be supervised by the Union County Police and representatives from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. Anyone found hunting on any county park property outside the terms of the program will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Citizens observing any such illegal activity are urged to contact the Union County Police at 908-654-9800.

The Union County Department of Parks and Community Renewal will be mailing information about the annual deer hunt to homes surrounding the park. Copies also will be available at Trailside Nature & Science Center, 452 New Providence Road, and Watchung Stable, 1160 Summit Lane, both in Mountainside.

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