Residents who may have heard helicopters hovering around for the last few nights can rest assured authorities weren't chasing violent criminals.
On those days, Millburn Township and Essex County officials were conducting aerial surveys to count the deer population those nights.
In , the helicopters were flying on Monday and Tuesday nights over the East Orange Water Company property and the 3-par municipal golf course, where they conducted this year's deer shoot. And the county ariel surveyed South Mountain, Eagle Rock and Hilltop reservations, on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Anthony Puglisi, public information officer for the county, told Patch.
"It'll be interesting to see what the count comes back as," said Millburn Administrator Tim Gordon. "The counts for the deer have decreased substantially since we started this. In the beginning it would vary widely by 100 or so. The last couple of years it's been only 20 or 30. There has been some talk about whether we need to do this every year. Depending on the count, I'd be comfortable recommending to the committee that we do it every other year or every third year."
The County's Puglisi said the surveys were conducted over South Mountain Reservation Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning and over Hilltop and Eagle Rock Reservations Wednesday night into early Thursday morning.
Puglisi said the county notified residents of the impending aerial study on its website. A notice Thursday read:
"Essex County will be conducting aerial surveys over Eagle Rock and Hilltop Reservations overnight from March 14 at 8 p.m. to March 15 at 3 a.m. Residents may hear aircraft noise between those times. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience or disruption."
The last aerial study was conducted five years ago, according to county officials.
At a press conference late last month, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. told reporters the county was that has taken place for the past five years.
He said a spotlight check and aerial study would help determine whether the hunt needed to continue.
"After those numbers come back we're going to see where the problem is, if there is no problem, there will be no culling program next year," DiVincenzo said in February. "Our goal … was to reduce the population of the deer, and in a five-year period, there's no question that's what we have done."
Daniel Bernier, wildlife management consultant to the county, said ideally, the reservations should have five deer per square mile to allow the forest to properly regenerate.
The deer culling program has been , demanding the use of non-lethal alternatives to curb the deer population. Others have claimed the to stabilize the populations.
Puglisi said final numbers on the deer count are not yet available as officials have yet to review all the findings.