Dear PoP – Deer Overpopulation?

Fallow Deer (Dama Dama), originally uploaded by Manav Gupta (Vacation mode).

“Dear PoP,

A little over two weeks ago I was driving a friend to Dulles and we had planned on making a couple of stops on our way out of town. The detour took us south on 23rd St NW and I had just started moving through an intersection at M St when “SMASH! TKWACK! AUUUGHHH!” A deer lunged from the east side of the street and tackled my car. The sounds were from the impact into the driver’s side, it’s body rumbling and rolling across the hood and myself and my friend screaming in shock and confusion. The deer survived the impact and bolted off towards Georgetown. Fortunately, all humans were also ok and my car sustained enough damage that the entire front needed to be replaced, but not so much that it was undrivable. There were some stragglers out and about that stopped to check on us and provide a play-by-play of the action and odds on the likelihood of survival of the deer, and one gentleman informed me that he had called the park service to complain about the deer and been told “it’s nature, there is nothing we can do about it,” a sentiment that I agree with in the park or out in the rolling hills of Western Maryland, but think is bullshit right next door to downtown. I had been noticing deer around a lot more frequently and wandering closer and closer to the road in Rock Creek Park and along bike rides past the Mormon Temple since late summer and have nearly been taken out by a large buck and a family of deer bolting across the road on more than one occasion. I am wondering if this is normal or if there is an over population problem in DC.

On a related note, I recently saw two articles in the Post about deer in the metro area. The first article was published this spring and discussed their adaptation to suburban living ( The second article covered protests from locals and animal rights activists who were opposing a bow hunt to cull the population in a couple of parks in Fairfax County. ( Personally I think deer are a tasty nuisance and it would be great fun to get Ted Nugent to schedule one of his hunting camps in the park like he did in Michigan to help reduce the Russian boar population.”

A few weeks ago a deer jumped into the lion’s den at the National Zoo. I remember when I used to drive seeing deer crossing Beach Drive all the time. I guess the question is – at what point do you think the deer population should be culled if ever?

29 Comment

  • Move into their territory, then wanting to weed them out. That’s just downright awful!

  • Well, deer tend to live on NPS (federal) land, and we are a colony, and thus NPS never really takes the issue seriously as far as I know. Also, how to cull dear in an urban area? Shooting is a tough sell, as are poisons, especially when half of PETA lives in the area.

    I think the compromise a few years ago was for the city to install more deer warning signs. That’s all your gonna get.

  • They are vectors for Lyme disease because of the ticks that live on them then drop off and next go to you or your dog.

  • Kalorini, you’re right on a certain level and I agree with you party, but we also killed/drove off all their natural predators (wolves, coyotes), so it’s true that their unchecked population growth is bad not just for us but for the natural ecosystem as well.
    Plus, they ARE quite tasty 😉

  • Anyone remember when a deer ran into the Ralph Lauren store in Georgetown?

  • There has been talk of bow hunting and there’s been talk of “birth control” because it’s more friendly. Honestly bow hunting is the cheapest and least traumatizing to the deer. I’m sure the PETA people will get up in arms over the bow hunting but its quick, realtively painless. When trapping a deer to give it birth control or castrate it you are more likely to injure the animal and stress it out.

    Donate the venison to food banks! Win Win Win for everyone, deer included.

    Something needs to be done before the over population of deer in DC develop chronic wasting disease. I grew up in Southern WI and seeing an animal with CWD is the saddest thing you’ve ever seen.

  • Venison . . . it’s what’s for dinner.

  • @Kalorini. That should be “Move into their territory, kill/chase off their natural predators, and we become their predators.”
    It’s a question of controlling their numbers by bc programs and/or humane kills. Or we can not do anything and let them 1) starve when their numbers get too high; 2) decimate local plant life, destroying the homes of other living creatures; and/or 3)be killed by ever increasing numbers in the age old game of deer vs car.

  • Yes, it’s a problem, and there are a few possible solutions:
    –Allow the deer population to regulate itself through starvation and automobile-encouters resulting from the ever-widening search for food. This has already begun, so we could just stay the course.
    –Use nature’s solution to over-breeding herbivores: re-introduce wolves to the area.
    –Relocate the people, and/or ban cars, and/or force everyone with a backyard to remove their fences making all of DC open grazing territory.
    –Cull the deer population creating smaller, healthier herds, with a delicious side effect.

  • Bring the goddamned wolves back already. Seriously.

  • Sometime in October, we drove through the Park on Military. On the way through to Chevy Chase, two deer darted into the road. On the way back (hours later), three others did the same (at least four of them were different; my Vermont upbringing teaches me to distinguish at least between does, bucks and the little’uns).

    Don’t know if that’s common, or just a freak night. But, man, wished I had a license and a 12-gauge.

  • Deer are nothing but tall rats.

  • Shoot those F8ckers! That’s damn good eatin’

  • get deer whistles for the car. it was de rigeur when i lived in rural indiana…

  • My 21 year-old cousin was killed when he crashed into a deer in northern Michigan. Michigan has a pretty big problem. It’s probably the biggest danger there when driving from sun down to sun up.

    Deer in Rock Creek Park let my dog and I walk within feet of them… pretty weird.

  • The deer population is way down do to the coyotes in Rock Creek Park. I used to see herds of 12 to 15 now I’m lucky to see 5 or 6 deer together. If you drive up Grant Street off of Beach Drive in the evening sometimes you’ll see the coyotes chasing them through the woods. The deer are running like crazy. The coyotes just trot along until the deer tire themselves out. I’ve never seen an actual kill though.

  • One of the “funniest” things I have seen was a really big dog chasing a deer at full speed down Mass Ave near the Naval Observatory.

  • The deer population in Rock Creek Park is well over what the park can sustain – I think the density is supposed to be less than 15 deer/square mile, and currently there’s something like 60+ deer/square mile.

  • About two weeks ago I was driving on Military Road west of the park at about 530AM on a Sunday. I saw a huge 5-6 point buck walking down Military like he was the mayor or something. It was pretty incredible, he just cut off into someone’s yard as we slowly drove closer. Always remember when you see one deer there are usually more around.

  • There are more deer in the U.S. now then before European settlers arrived. As all the previous posts stated urbanization has removed the natural preadators and European settlers decimated the human predators. We need to do something. Hunting would be dangerous in DC so the obvious solution would be controlled culling or birth control.
    When running in Palisades one time I saw a herd of 14+ deer running along the trail.
    As for drivers, I second the call for deer whistles. I had an old Bug when I was in high school and a collision with a deer would have meant lights out. The whistles kept them away.

  • Another impact of the tremendous overpopulation of deer in the area is the endangerment of many native plants and the ground-dwelling birds that rely on them for cover. Plants that live for a short while in the spring, known as “spring ephemerals” are particularly hit hard because there’s little else for the deer to eat.

    While coyotes are not native to this part of the world, they are indeed filling part of an ecological niche that was once filled by cougars and wolves.

  • Let’s give all of the thugs with guns a day or two of target practice in Rock Creek…

  • Saw a couple snacking off of Military on Sunday. I almost hit one in NC years ago. They freeze and a rack can do terrible damage to your windshield & body.

  • I live next to RC park, see deer almost daily, have had Lyme disease. The park is planning to reduce the deer population through selective culling (with sharpshooters) and contraceptives until the population stabilizes. This is very important because of TSE (transmissable spongiform encephelopathy) or deer wasting disease. It’s been found in only two counties east of the Miss. River, and one of them is in West Va., not far from Harpers Ferry. If the deer population in the park is too large to isolate, it will be impossible to keep TSE from eliminating the whole herd.

  • Use them for sniper training for Military an Law Enforcement snipers. Even as a vegetarian, I’d much prefer deer be killed with one quick & definitive shot over being maimed/killed slowly by vehicle collisions or starvation.

  • Cull the people, not the animals!

  • The Park Service recently issued a plan to deal with the deer overpopulation. The public comment period ended in early Nov. The options included a controled hunt and birth control. Not sure where the final plan ended up.

  • Cull @janedarcy 1st.

  • I contracted Lyme disease with the help of one of these cute little guys…It put me in the cardiac intensive care unit for 5 days. We need to control these pests, I see them as nothing but big, dirty rats.

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