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City Paper alum Stephanie Mencimer mentions D.C.’s Rock Creek Park as an aside about how the country’s deer population is exploding without any wolves to keep them in check:
Deer have been a blight on suburbia for a while now, munching their way through tract-housing gardens and making some highways extremely dangerous for motorists, as their populations have exploded. (In DC, where they live in abundant numbers in the city’s biggest park, Rock Creek Park, they’re known by neighbors as rats with antlers.) Deer are also radically changing places like the forests of the Adirondacks by devouring young tree shoots from the storied maples and leaving nothing but beech. But a new study finds that it’s not just deer populations that are wreaking havoc on North American ecosystems. It’s all of the large mammals that graze on plants.
Moose, elk, and deer populations are at historic highs, according to an extensive review by scientists at Oregon State University. And they’re taking their toll on young trees, reducing biodiversity of forests and contributing to climate change as a result. The leading cause of the disrupted ecosystems is the disappearance of the predators, namely wolves and bears. Researchers found that large mammal densities were six times higher in areas without wolves than in those with them.
Adding a couple of wolves to Rock Creek probably wouldn’t be a feasible solution to the deer population, but what with deer visiting libraries these days, something should be done. Luckily, the National Park Service is winding up a three-year process of deciding how to manage deer in the park. They’ve produced a lengthy report about their preferred method of deer mitigation (and less lethal alternatives): which includes capture and euthanasia, sharpshooting, and birth control.
Photo by Mr. T In DC via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License