“Deer reduction” has started in Rock Creek Park. “Temporary night-time road closures will be in effect”

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From the National Park Service:

“The upcoming window of action for deer reduction in Rock Creek Park will be November 15, 2016 through March 31, 2017. This is the fifth operational window for the Rock Creek Park White-tailed Deer Management Plan. Temporary night-time road closures will be in effect to provide for visitor and employee safety during reduction activities. Commuters, including cyclists, are advised to plan alternate routes.

Extensive safety measures will be in place to protect park visitors and neighbors during operations. Biologists, who are also highly trained firearms experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be working under the direction of National Park Service (NPS) resource management specialists and in coordination with U.S. Park Police and local law enforcement to conduct reduction actions at night when the park is normally closed.

The following road closures in NW D.C. may be in effect from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. when operations are underway:

Ross Drive
Ridge Road south of Grant Road
Glover Road south of the Rock Creek Horse Center
Horse Stable Road

The following additional temporary closures between 8:30 p.m. and 4 a.m. may be in effect during operations:

Beach Drive between Piney Branch Parkway and the Klingle Road/Porter Street interchange
Beach Drive from Tilden Street to the Maryland boundary
17th Street from the Woodner Apartments to Piney Branch Parkway
Piney Branch Parkway
Porter Street ramp to Beach Drive east of Williamsburg Lane
Blagden Avenue west of Mathewson Drive
Broad Branch Road east of Ridge Road
Wise Road
Entire length of Glover Road
Entire length of Ridge Road
Grant Road
Sherrill Drive
Joyce Road
Morrow Drive
West Beach Drive at Parkside Drive
Stage Road
Bingham Drive

History of White-tailed Deer in Rock Creek Park

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are common throughout North and Central America. Without natural predators and with favorable habitat, deer have flourished in Rock Creek Park. Before 1960, there were no recorded sightings of white-tailed deer in the park. By the early 1990s, sightings were so frequent that the park stopped recording them. Their numbers in the last decade have reached up to nearly 100 per square mile at its peak.

Over the last 20 years, this overabundant white-tailed deer population has negatively impacted Rock Creek Park. The deer are damaging vegetation and eating nearly all the tree seedlings and compromising the ability of the Rock Creek Park’s forest from sustaining itself. The high number of deer is also destroying smaller trees and shrubs that provide critical habitat for native birds and other wildlife. If deer populations go unmanaged, this wildlife will not have food and shelter.

As the area around Rock Creek Park becomes more developed, the park is increasingly important as a refuge for plants and wildlife. It’s critical – as well as required by NPS management policies — that the natural resources which sustain the park’s wildlife be protected.

Rock Creek Park conducted an Environmental Impact Statement and an extensive public process to create a plan, finalized in 2012, that calls for quickly reducing the size of the population to allow for a healthy, diverse forest that supports native vegetation and other wildlife. Once the herd size is at a healthy level, management efforts will work to maintain a sustainable deer population, which could be carried out through both lethal and non-lethal means.

After reduction operations, the National Park Service donates all suitable venison to food banks that serve needy families and homeless shelters in the Washington, D.C. area.”

26 Comment

  • I regularly see 3 deer at a time when walking along Porter/Klingle between Cleveland Park and Mt. Pleasant. “Deer reduction” makes my deer-loving heart sad but I totally get it.

    And the fact that they’re donating the venison makes me really, really happy. That’s awesome.

  • Hold on a sec, I need to make some popcorn before the comments ramp up.

  • “Biologists, who are also highly trained firearms experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

    That is quite the job description.

  • This is responsible wildlife management. With no predators to keep them in check, prey species will pretty quickly overrun an area, leading to disease and starvation and widespread damage to the environment.
    Watch this very cool video about what happened when wolves were re-introduced at Yellowstone. http://www.yellowstonepark.com/wolf-reintroduction-changes-ecosystem/

  • …and where can we find this DC venison?

  • Anybody have a good explanation why there were no deer noticed in the park before 1960?

    • Maybe because they hadn’t been squeezed out of their other environments yet. As more wilderness areas are replaced with housing developments and office parks, there are fewer places for deer to go.

      • RC Park connects to lots of other woodland areas (look at an old school big paper map), so it’s easy for the deer to migrate there when suburban areas develop. My workplace overlooks an area that used to have lots of deer in residence–now with new development, it seems to be an avenue for migration from one place to another.

        This is not unique to DC or RC Park. When I visit relatives in the Eastern Suburbs of Cleveland (Cle Hts/Shaker Hts eastward), they have similar circumstances and problems with deer turning up in residential areas and urban/suburban parklands they didn’t in previous decades.

        • Yes, I was thinking about my own hometown in the midwest. When I was a kid, seeing a deer was something rare and magical that you told people about at dinner parties. Hunting deer was a long weekend of quiet, skilled stalking. Now, they’re everywhere, they’re causing accidents, the challenge is gone from hunting, and all those new suburban residents can’t keep a vegetable garden.

        • Totally. I’m from that area outside of Cleveland, and while I saw deer in the parks growing up, it wasn’t really a problem. Now you need to be very careful driving on suburban roads at night because the deer can come out of nowhere. They also casually graze on lawns.

      • They’ve lost their territory but they have also, more importantly have lost their predators. Their population has wildly grown with very little to keep it in check.

    • Probably because it didn’t occur to anyone that seeing a deer was really worth recording?

    • One reason: In 1960 there were around 25,000 people living in Loudon County. Today there are almost 400,000. Add several more counties around the Beltway and you get an idea why so many deer crowd into limited green space (Rock Creek Park is 1,700 acres).

  • This is sad. The Humane Society in the past proposed immunocontraception as an alternative and even was going to contribute to costs. I hope they are able to get to the point of using non-lethal methods like this soon.

    • Yeah, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. For a government that has no problem killing humans rather than finding non-lethal ways to deal with disputes, which always seem to be about access to oil, which is basically an economic problem, and thus actually builds much of its tax revenue and economy around building killing machines and the infrastructure to support those endeavors, it seems unlikely that killing deer is going to be a problem for it for a long time.

    • The problem with contraception was that it takes too long to lower populations. And in the mean time the deer were causing severe degradation to the flora in the park. Contraception could be used to maintain the population at a steady state once the herd has been reduced. However, the population outside of RCP would also have to be better controlled since deer from Montgomery County can easily wander into Rock Creek.

      • Plus it is so hard to get the buck to stand still long enough to put on the condom.

        • Ha!
          Steve – that is right. I’m hoping that the immunocontraception will be possible once the population is reduced. As to anon, keep crushing dreams. It’s what the world needs now. Jk. Have a snack. 🙂

  • The deer. The LA-esque. sunshot lawn. The mournful trees. Tell me, be this Crestwood?