The National Park Service is launching its seasonal efforts to cull the deer in Rock Creek Park, saying that it will deploy sharpshooters throughout the park over the next four months to reduce the population to a manageable level.
The agency says in a press release that the deer hunting will take place during evenings between today and March 31, 2015. While the deer cull will not be a daily ritual, the Park Service will close most of the side roads and trails in the park while it is underway. Per the announcement:
The following road closures may be in effect from 5 PM to 4 AM, when reduction actions are underway: Ross Drive; Ridge Road south of Grant Road; Glover Road south of the Rock Creek Park Horse Center; and Horse Stable Road NW. Road closures may also be in effect from 8:30 PM to 4 AM: Beach Drive; Wise Road; the entire length of Glover Road; the entire length of Ridge Road; Grant Road; Sherrill Drive; Joyce Road; Morrow Drive; West Beach Drive at Parkside Drive; Stage Road; Piney Branch Parkway; and Bingham Drive, Northwest.
The sharpshooters, who will work under the direction of park rangers, are wildlife biologists from Agriculture Department who are also “highly trained firearms experts,” the Park Service says.
While the deer-culling program has received frequent criticism from animal-rights activists, the Park Service says it became necessary in early 2013 after Rock Creek Park’s white-tailed deer population became so large and unwieldy that the creatures were eating nearly every tree and plant seedling before they had a chance to grow. After the first two years of deer hunting, the Park Service brought the population down from 80 per square mile to 40. The target population is between 15 and 20 deer per square mile over the 4.4-square mile park.
Though it’s a bloody business, the deer cull yields many positive results in addition to protecting Rock Creek Park’s vegetation. The Park Service donated 3,300 pounds of venison to local homeless shelters and community kitchens.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.