A few months ago, we noted that the National Park Service was reviewing options for reducing the white-tailed deer population in Rock Creek Park. Between 2007 and 2009, park rangers counted 60-80 deer per square mile of the park—compare that to the 1960s, when staff spotted deer only four times.
White-tailed deer love “edge habitat,” Rock Creek Park’s Chief Ranger Nick Bartolomeo told us back in April. That makes Rock Creek a perfect location: It’s where the forest meets the nicely manicured lawns and gardens so often found west of the park. The problem? Having 375 deer in a space where there should only be about 80 makes it hard for the forest to regenerate and puts delicate plant species at risk.
Bartolomeo told us the population explosion happened because there’s nothing to stop it.”There’s no predators, and the only thing keeping the population in check are vehicle collisions,” he says.
Which, as one can imagine, isn’t really the best method for deer management.
But lo! Last week, NPS announced (belatedly) that it gave the park the go-ahead to move on its preferred method of deer management. The plan is to a) bring in government sharpshooters (since hunters aren’t typically allowed in national parks), b) capture and euthanize when necessary, and c) find an appropriate birth control method for the does.
The report notes that sharpshooting (and possibly bow-hunting!) will occur in late fall and winter, between dusk and dawn, when the deer are visible and active and there aren’t many people around. And in case you were wondering, the report notes that deer meat will be donated to local organizations “to the maximum extent possible.”
Photo by Mr. T In DC via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License