Rock Creek Park Begins “Deer Reduction Operations”

deer_dc
Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

We last spoke about the debate on dealing with deer in DC in early Feb. From the National Park Service via MPD:

Rock Creek Park Superintendent Tara Morrison announced today that several temporary night-time road closures will be in effect from March 27-30, 2013 to provide for visitor safety during white-tailed deer reduction efforts in the park. The Rock Creek Park White-tailed Deer Management Plan calls for reducing the density of deer to support long-term protection, preservation and restoration of native vegetation and to allow for forest regeneration.

“Implementing the White-tailed Deer Management Plan is a critical step toward ensuring the forest is able to support native plants and animals found in Rock Creek Park in a sustainable manner for this and future generations,” said Superintendent Morrison. “Safety is our top priority and we will conduct management actions in the safest manner possible.”

Numerous safety measures will be in place to protect park visitors and neighbors. Highly trained sharpshooters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, working under the direction of National Park Service resource management specialists and in coordination with the U.S. Park Police and local law enforcement, will conduct reduction actions at night when the park is normally closed. The management plan calls for using active herd reduction efforts during the next three years to reduce the deer density from over 70 per square mile today to 15-20 per square mile. Once the herd size is at a healthy level, management efforts will work to maintain a sustainable deer population.

Over the last 20 years, an overabundant white-tailed deer population has negatively impacted Rock Creek Park. Their numbers have grown so large that they are eating nearly all the tree seedlings and preventing Rock Creek Park’s forest from growing. Reducing the size of the population will reduce pressure from deer browsing, allowing for a healthy diverse forest that supports native vegetation and other wildlife.

The following road closures will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., March 27-30 when sharpshooting is underway: Beach Drive north of Broad Branch Road, Ross Drive, Wise Road, Grant Road, Sherrill Drive, Joyce Road, Morrow Drive, and Bingham Road, NW.

81 Comment

  • I’m totally for this. I was listening to the argument about giving birth control to the deer instead of the shooting them, and I kept thinking about how no one seems to want to give birth control to rats or mice.

  • I read this and thought this is just another fancy way of saying “we’re going to kill some deer.”

    Who wants some jerky??

  • What are they doing with the meat?

  • This is horrible and barbaric. For those who feel the same, I got this through the Rock Creek deer listserv.

    URGENT!
    EMERGENCY PROTEST RALLY TONIGHT! ROCK CREEK DEER KILL HAS STARTED!

    PLEASE JOIN US FOR AN EMERGENCY PROTEST RALLY AND VIGIL
    TONIGHT MARCH 28TH, 2013
    AND EVERY NIGHT THROUGH MARCH 30
    STARTING AT 5 PM.
    (Please note the start time of the rally has
    changed to 5pm each evening-NOT 9:00pm.)

    PLEASE PASS THE WORD!
    In a surprise move, the National Park Service announced late yesterday afternoon that it would begin killing the deer of Rock Creek National Park last night and will continue each night through Saturday, March 30. We do not know if the Park Service plans to kill on Easter Sunday, March 31. The Park Service told the news media that they will kill 120 deer during these four days.

    This is the first time in the 123-year history of Rock Creek National Park that the Park Service is killing the native animals that, by law, it is charged with protecting.

    This is an outrage! We had thought that our lawsuit against the Park Service, which we lost on March 14, would hold off the deer kill for this season and give us more time to convince the Park Service to use readily-available birth control on the deer instead of killing them.

    The Park Service told the public that it would only kill deer in the fall and winter — and it is now spring. In addition, the Park Service told the public it had no money to mount a deer kill this season. The National Park Service lied on both counts and betrayed the deer and the public.

    How dare the Park Service sneak in their underhanded, ugly kill during the beautiful Passover/Easter weekend when so many DC residents are out of town? How dare the Park Service have so little regard for those of us who want non-violent, non-lethal deer population control?

    WE WILL MEET AT THE “ROCK CREEK PARK” SIGN LOCATED IN A TRIANGLE OF GRASS AT THE
    CORNER OF MILITARY ROAD, NW,
    WHERE IT INTERSECTS WITH OREGON AVE.
    AND GLOVER RD., NW
    THIS SITE IS ALONG A VERY BUSY, AND VERY PUBLIC, ROAD. It is one of the few roads that will still be open to the public during the deer kill.
    THE MEDIA WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE.

    WHAT TO BRING:

    – WARM CLOTHES (AND HATS AND GLOVES)

    – LARGE SIGNS OR SHEETS SPRAY-PAINTED WITH A MESSAGE OF YOUR CHOICE (for example: “SHAME”, “NATIONAL PARK SERVICE SHAME,” “BIRTH CONTROL — NOT BULLETS,” “DON’T KILL OUR DEER,” “DEER KILLING TONIGHT,” “BIRTH CONTROL FOR DEER — NOT KILLING,” “DON’T KILL THE ROCK CREEK PARK DEER.”
    (IF YOU BRING SHEET SIGNS PLEASE BE SURE THEY ARE MOUNTED ON LONG POLES AS THEY WILL FLUTTER IN THE BREEZE IF THEY ARE NOT MOUNTED. WHEN MOUNTED THIS WAY THEY CAN BE HELD BY TWO PEOPLE.)

    – NOISEMAKERS — SUCH AS POTS AND PANS AND LOUD RADIOS TO TRY AND ALERT THE DEER

    – CAMERAS AND VIDEO CAMERAS

    – BULL HORNS

    The killing is scheduled to take place each night between 10 pm and 4 am. Practically tame and pregnant deer will be lured to piles of apples
    and grain where they will be mowed
    down with bullets and arrows.

    Rock Creek Park roads that will be closed each night for the kill are: Beach Drive north of Broad Branch Rd., Ross Drive, Wise Rd., Grant Rd., Sherrill Drive, Joyce Road, Morrow Drive, and Bingham Rd., NW.

    • Jeesh. Should we reintroduce wolves? This is an ecological system, not a zoo.

    • Ok you do that, I’m gonna follow exterminators around DC alleys and bang pots to alert the rats.

      • The mental image formed in my brain from your comment is hilarious. I will randomly giggle all day, thanks!

    • Sounds like a great idea. Are you also going to chip in for hospital and car repair bills the next time someone hits a deer on the RCP??

      Use some common sense. Deer aren’t endangered and culling the herd isnt barbaric.

    • “PLEASE JOIN US FOR AN EMERGENCY PROTEST RALLY AND VIGIL”

      I cannot understand these people going to this protest but do not picket every fast food chain sourced from feedlots every single day.

      “How dare the Park Service have so little regard for those of us who want non-violent, non-lethal deer population control?”

      Because using birth control is more expensive, doesn’t supply meat for shelters and you’re part of an incredibly small minority of the voting block?

      “Practically tame and pregnant deer”

      …covered in deer ticks…

      “How dare the Park Service sneak in their underhanded, ugly kill during the beautiful Passover/Easter weekend when so many DC residents are out of town?”

      Sneak in by issuing a public statement through the MPD?

      • Exactly.

        I especially don’t get this part: “We had thought that our lawsuit against the Park Service, which we lost on March 14, would hold off the deer kill for this season and give us more time to convince the Park Service to use readily-available birth control on the deer instead of killing them.”

        You lost the lawsuit. So why is this a surprise and why do you still think your outcome is going to prevail? They decided that this is the best way to maintain the herd. I just don’t get everyone thinking they’re an armchair expert these days. I trust that NPS made the right decision given their resources and training. I’m not a forestry management expert, but I think they employ some of those to make these decisions.

    • I can think of probably a hundred more “barbaric” things that animals do to each other. This will be quick. You are such a small minority. The fact you supported this lawsuit is ridiculous, and I only wish the US Attorney had counter-sued, asking that the parties filing the lawsuit had to cover the USA’s costs for this frivolous suit.

    • Anyone want to protest the protest?

      Seriously, these people need a wake-up call. Like a four-point buck running into their cars.

      The deer population needs to be thinned. And now, thank god, it’s finally being thinned. This is long overdue.

      I’m so glad the enviros in this town are too incompetent to hold things up for much longer.

    • Why stop at banging pots and pans? The protesters should all cover themselves in buck lure (the stuff with real urine is the best) and lead the deer out of RCP and out of town, Pied-Piper style.

    • “We do not know if the Park Service plans to kill on Easter Sunday, March 31.”

      Well, I sure hope they do. March 31 is just another day, same as March 30, same as April 1.

      But if Easter is special for you, maybe you can pray for them to rise again.

      In the meantime, I’m going to be dreaming of venison chili.

    • I’m gonna provide some music for them. I’ll be playing the world’s smallest violin and my sad trombone.

    • “The National Park Service lied on both counts and betrayed the deer and the public.”

      Betrayed the deer? Seriously?

      And how about we worry about getting HUMANS access to birth control before focusing on the deer?

    • Would you prefer these deer starve themselves out of the park, and we have nothing left? In a managed, urban environment, we have to manage for these animals as well. We can’t just “let nature take its course”. The same counts for invasive species management.

    • Go ahead – I have no problem with bycatch.

    • Look around DC. There are a lot of problems here. Is this really the one you should be focusing your energy on?

    • I really wish I would have seen this last night to behold the certain group of people that do not support such a necessary harvest.

  • I don’t think I’ve heard anything about what they’ll be doing with the carcasses. I do wish the meat could be given to local shelters. Kojo just said he “suspects” the meat will be used, but I somehow doubt that it will be and that’s a shame.
    To @LT-I completely disagree with you. This cull will not only benefit the park but the herd as a whole. Again though, I hope the meat is put to good use.

  • You had to go and use the cutest deer picture ever for this story…

  • What do you want to bet that NPS missed a major revenue opportunity here? I bet there are lots of DC-area hunters who would have paid well to be allowed to be in on the cull. But no, I’m sure they are probably being paid. *headshake*

    (Oh, and LT, that’s some nice hysteria you’ve got up there. They’re deer, not siberian white tigers.)

    • i’m content with professionals doing the job.

    • I think it shows great judgment that they are not allowing amateur hunters, since they are not completely clearing the area and are hunting at night.

      • Who said anything about amateurs? I didn’t say you had to sell the special license to everyone who shows up with $500. This town is teeming with trained and credentialed law-enforcement and military.

        • we just need to set up an office to check and register all applicants. and deal with any insurance permitting issues. then staff the new office. we should be able to start shooting deer in 5-8 years.

    • saf

      The sharpshooters are provided by USDA.

    • Since the area around Rock Creek Park is so densely populated I’m fine with “highly trained sharpshooters” over amateurs being used.

    • Non-government employee/government agent hunting is not permitted on NPS land unless Congress authorizes it.

      NPS has gotten around this a few times before using volunteer hunters in places like Rocky Mtn. NP on the basis that the volunteer hunters are NPS’s authorized agents. But given the differences between RMNP and RCP, I can see why NPS would be hesitant to use volunteer local hunters in RCP.

  • where is the part about giving meat to shelters?

  • Mmmmmm venison.

    Need to find a list of shelters ….. hopefully they’ll be making some venison chili.

  • They could sell the meat to restaurants. It’s free range, locally sourced, organic meat!

  • This is absolutely necessary. Deer have no natural predators around here anymore, and when they overpopulate like this, they eat all the food which ends up harming other animals, and the entire deer population themselves from being malnourished.

    Because people nearly killed off all the wolves back in the day, we now have deer overpopulation. Gotta think of the whole ecosystem.

    Watch the Lion King, they talk about the circle of life. Same thing here.

  • Okay, more importantly…can we PLEASE have a Photo Caption Contest with the image for this post?

    I’ll start us out:

    (sound of a branch snapping) “Paul…is that you? Paul?”

  • so seriously, what happens to the carcasses?

  • I believe the driving force behind the reduction in herd size in that the current densities are not sustainable (i.e. the deer are damaging the forest). So the herd size needs to be reduced. There are four ways to do this:
    1) Birth control (not cheap; also not quick, i.e. it will be years until the herd size drops)
    2) Predator introduction (not cheap; quicker; other side effects, e.g. dead dogs)
    3) Physically transplanting deer to another location (SUPER NOT cheap, but fast)
    4) Controlled kills (cheap and fast)

    Given government budgets, I will assume that even if option 4 is not the first choice of NPS, it is the only one they can afford. Thank Congress for that.

    In terms of the timing (spring vs fall/winter), I woud also not be surprised if NPS can’t execute (no pun intended) these sorts of operations under a CR. I don’t work for NPS, but I can tell you it’s butt hard to get stuff done in the federal government under a CR. So again, thank Congress for that.

  • This is how government works people–they must kill the deer in order to save them.

  • im no animal rights activist — not at all — but i can’t ignore the irony of humans taking lethal action against deer in an effort to curb deforestation.

    it’s good to be king.

    • Deer are not causing deforestation; just preventing new growth (and natural forest regeneration).

      • well that changes everything. let the hunt begin!

        whether the deer are eating seedlings, or felling trees with industrial machinery so that they can build houses along Beach Dr., i was simply pointing out the irony in humans culling another species due to its negative impact on the environment.

        not an activist, just a satirist.

  • The reality is that the best approach is a combined one. Birth control will reduce the incidence of new deer, and the culling of the heard will decrease the prevalence.

    If you do both, you should be able to maintain a healthy population.

    OR

    You can have these deer die a slow and agonizing death by motor vehicle, disease (chronic wasting), or starvation.

  • I’m a strong believer in forest management (including animal life) as a way to maintain healthy forests and ecosystems. The deer population is out of control here. Deer should not be found (dead) around 14th and N street (or wherever that accident happened). We need to cull and control the population. In a place that is densely populated with humans, wild animals (wild as in not domesticated) should not be left uncontrolled.

    Yeah, it sucks (it is so nice to see a deer while running around Rock Creek Park), but clearly the high numbers are affecting the ecosystem.

  • I’m surprised no one has mentioned the alternative for these deer–slowly starving to death because the park can’t support their numbers.

    Yeah, that seems pleasant.

  • Fantastic. Good to hear they didn’t get bogged down too much.

  • Let some of us Native Americans exercise our treaty rights. We’re here working for the government, so we don’t get to do it in our traditional lands….let us hunt here under supervision of the NPS.

  • I’ve seen too many deer hit and suffering on Rock Creek Parkway. Shooting some of them to thin the herd is way more humane.

  • Yea, this is a really good thing. I’m not sure how much of a dent they’ll put into the population but, by almost any measure, they’re way overpopulated. And this is a great time of year to cull the herd since “spring ephemerals” are just now starting to sprout. These are plants (mostly) that shoot up in spring to take advantage of the sunlight that, soon after, is monopolized by trees. Some ones you may know include june apple and trillium.

    Deer have decimated many populations of these plants, and the rarest of them are mostly gone in Rock Creek and elsewhere because of them. The upshot is that the forests have become significantly less biologically diverse.

    I don’t understand animal rights people who prefer one species over another. Save the deer but decimate countless other species? What’s the logic in that? It’s the same illogic when they save feral cat populations at the great expense of bird species, some quite threatened.

    • because deer and cats have big brown eyes and are sooooo cute! also, fine childhood memories of watching bambi and playing with mr. fuzzy-butt

      like many other pressure groups, the environmental movement is full of useful idiots

  • alphatango

    I love the phrasing: “reduction actions”. Who comes up with this stuff?!

  • Some people may not realize, but interfering with a hunt is a criminal offense.

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