Monday, August 31, 2009

WASHINGTON DC NEWS: Hunt in Rock Creek National Park Considered

The National Park Service is eyeing the use of sharpshooters and other lethal action as the most effective means to quickly cull the growing white-tail deer population in Rock Creek Park.

Hundreds of deer -- roughly 82 per square mile -- roam the 2,900-acre park, the park service reports in a 400-page environmental impact statement, which sets out the lethal and nonlethal options for controlling deer numbers. The herd often wanders off the reservation, onto neighboring roads, into residents' yards and occasionally through plate glass windows.

The park service is lobbying for immediate action as white-tail deer are fast becoming the dominant force in the park's ecosystem. The deer are destroying native vegetation, competing with other wildlife for limited food resources, and increasingly are posing a hazard to drivers.

The EIS, the subject of a scheduled public meeting Wednesday, offers four alternatives for reducing the deer population:

» A do-nothing option
» Surgical and chemical sterilization and "large fenced areas"
» Sharpshooters and euthanization
» A combination of the latter two choices

Killing deer via sharpshooting and euthanasia would allow the forest to regenerate, "improving habitat and reducing impacts of overbrowsing," according to the park service document. The hunts, performed primarily at night during late fall and winter months, would entail "trained sharpshooters" using rifles or bow and arrow.
The meat, the NPS said, would be donated to local charitable organizations for consumption "to the maximum extent possible."

Opinions vary on controlled hunts as a viable practice inside the District.
Though killing deer is a "heart wrenching decision," an overpopulation of any single species "wreaks havoc in so many ways," said Jane Solomon, a conservation biologist who lives just west of Rock Creek Park.

"It's unpopular," said Solomon, a Forest Hills advisory neighborhood commissioner. "They're beautiful animals. We all love them, but the population's too large. I wouldn't be opposed to either some form of euthanization or lethal means."
Deer are a "nuisance and vexatious," said D.C. Councilman Phil Mendelson. But sterilization, he said, is the best practice.

"It's not hard to find them to do the sterilization," Mendelson said. "It's certainly a more humane approach and far less controversial than sharpshooting."

The park service "is looking to hunt" rather than investigating options like reflectors, flashing lights, controlled vegetation and devices that scare deer away from roads and residences, said Scott Giacoppo, chief programs officer with the Washington Humane Society. Deer kills, he said, are "proven not to work."

"I personally wouldn't get involved in something like that," said Charles Rogers, president of the Woodbridge-based National Sportsman Association. "It's sort of like shooting fish in a barrel."

Source: Washington Examiner

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