Shooters hired to reduce deer population in Rock Creek Park
Expect fewer encounters with deer in Rock Creek Park. The National Park Service has hired government shooters to reduce the exploding number of white-tailed deer in the capital’s largest park.
It’s not because the deer are unwelcome, says Nick Bartolomeo, chief of resources management for the park, but because they are eating the forest.
“We barely have any regeneration of native trees and shrubs,” Bartolomeo said. “They eat it to the ground.”
Deer love to munch on native plants such as tulip poplar, red maple, dogwood and red oak seedlings, he said.
As part of the deer management plan, sharpshooters with the Department of Agriculture will begin shooting and euthanizing deer around January.
(Yes, the USDA has shooters trained to do this type of thing.)
The goal is to shrink the current population of 80 deer per square mile to about 20 per square mile in the next three years, said Bartolomeo.
The contract shooters will go out after dark in the winter months with night-vision gear, according to the plan. If needed, they may use archery or lethal injections. Staff will close down those areas to the public during the hunt.
The National Park Service got public input from nearby residents and animal advocates before choosing a plan of action. In the end, the agency decided that killing the deer was the only way to control the problem.
However, the National Park Service will consider using deer birth control on the female deer. But the only products on the market right now don’t meet the agency’s standards for effectiveness and safety, Bartolomeo said.
So the first step is loading up the close-range rifles with non-lead bullets. What will happen to the carcasses? Park staff will donate the meat to local food banks.
Read the full deer management plan for Rock Creek Park HERE.