Friday, November 13, 2009

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Valley Forge NP Sued Over Deer Management

Valley Forge is 5.5 square miles. There are an estimated 232 per square mile, or about 10 times more than the park can support. I would love to see the parasite loads on these deer.

Two animal-rights groups filed suit in federal court yesterday to stop officials at Valley Forge National Historical Park from going ahead with a plan to shoot more than 1,500 deer.

Deploying sharpshooters in winter, the season when George Washington's troops suffered at Valley Forge, "is not only an appalling twist on the park's history," the suit says, but "another sign that the National Park Service has abandoned its century-old mission to strive for parks in which conservation of nature is paramount."

The filing by Friends of Animals, a national advocacy group, and Compassion for Animals, Respect the Environment (CARE), a West Chester organization, was lodged against park Superintendent Michael Caldwell, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, the National Park Service as an agency, and other park service officials.

Caldwell, reached yesterday evening, said he had not seen the lawsuit but knows that the park is acting properly.

"I'm confident in the proficiency of the plan, and we believe in its scientific validity, and we've had a transparent process," he said. "I believe in the plan and where it's headed."

Anthony Conte, an attorney for the park service, said he had not seen the lawsuit. Frank Quimby, a spokesman for the Department of the Interior, said the agency does not comment on litigation.

Park officials intend to reduce the herd by 86 percent - from an estimated 1,277 deer to between 165 and 185 - during the next four years. Federal employees or contractors are to fire silencer-equipped rifles, mostly at night, at deer lured to areas baited with apples and grain. The shooting is to take place between November and March, but administrators have refused to provide specific dates.

Valley Forge officials say the action is necessary to reduce a herd that has grown big and destructive, gobbling so many plants and saplings that the forest can't regenerate.

Administrators plan to shoot 500 deer the first year, 500 the second, and between 250 and 300 in years three and four.

After four years, officials say, they'll maintain a smaller herd through contraceptives and additional shoots. They estimate that shooting deer will cost between $2.0 million and $2.9 million during the next 15 years.

The plan has provoked enormous controversy among people who live near Valley Forge, site of the Continental Army's 1777-78 winter encampment, with residents both opposed and in favor.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court for the Eastern District, said that the park study that blamed deer for ruined vegetation was flawed, and that the law requires the park to protect and conserve natural resources - including deer.

"We want the park to just let them be," said Allison Memmo Geiger, president of CARE.

Unlike the paved roads, concrete buildings, and rebuilt log cabins in the park, the suit says, deer were present before, during and after Washington's encampment, making them part of the cultural and historical resources.

The suit claims that park service officials failed to follow federal laws and regulations in developing their plan to control deer. Among those failures, the suit said, is that the park gave short shrift to the idea of introducing coyotes as natural predators.

Studies show that coyotes can safely and effectively reduce urban deer populations, and improve the health of plants, said Michael Harris, who prepared the suit as director of the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Denver. Coyotes kill the sick and weak, but more than that, they harass the herd, making deer wary of grazing and limiting their ability to freely reproduce.

The suit said the park also failed to consider how gunfire could endanger park visitors, local residents, and drivers on surrounding highways.

"The government's desire to deploy a rifle team to war on the deer," said Lee Hall, legal director for Friends of Animals, "lacks biological, ecological, and ethical sense."


Thursday, November 12, 2009

MAYRLAND NEWS: Sligo Creek Park Battles Deer

One day in 2007, after a morning spent at Sligo Creek Park removing invasive plants so native plants could survive, Sally Gagne took a moment to look back on the acre of parkland she had proudly worked to save.

Her pride turned quickly to panic.

"I couldn't believe how little was left," said Gagne, a Silver Spring resident and founder of the Friends of Sligo Creek, a group dedicated to improving the quality of the Sligo Creek watershed, which covers 11.6 square miles from Wheaton to Hyattsville. "There were very few young trees and even fewer native plants."

A new adversary -- a rapidly increasing deer population in Sligo Creek -- had eaten almost all of the native plants and saplings.

The deer problem was bad in 2007, she said, and is worse now. For the first time, members of the Friends group are debating whether to cull the deer population in Sligo Creek before the ecosystem is ruined.

"It will happen slowly, but the woods will be gone," Gagne said. "The whole community of woods, the animals that live there and the birds that fly through."

By the group's count, between 98 and 123 deer live within one square mile along Sligo Creek Parkway between Colesville Road and Arcola Avenue in Silver Spring. Depending on the area, the deer population should be between 15 and 30 deer per square mile for the ecosystem to be unaffected, Montgomery County Parks Department officials said.

A deer-management program is in place at 19 county parks, using some form of sharpshooting or controlled hunting. The program covers more than 15,000 acres and 44 percent of county parkland.

The sharpshooting takes place three to four times at each park between January and April, said Rob Gibbs, the department's natural resources manager. Trained marksmen kill 25 to more than 100 deer a night, Gibbs said.

But sharpshooting is rare downcounty, where the parks are too small, too narrow or too urban for sharpshooting or controlled hunting, Gibbs said. Those areas have attracted deer that have grown wise to some of the long-standing upcounty sharpshooting programs, he said.

The deer population at Sligo Creek has increased almost twofold since 2007, leaving the Friends of Sligo Creek with a difficult predicament: Lobbying for sharpshooting or controlled hunts to manage deer could anger some members who say that sharpshooting would be too dangerous at Sligo Creek or that it is inhumane.

"It could end up being a lose-lose: not controlling deer and losing a lot of members," said Bruce Sidwell, the group's president.

At least part of the watershed is among sites in which the county would like to begin sharpshooting. The Sligo Creek Stream Valley Park, units 3, 4 and 5 -- the square mile between Colesville and Arcola -- is among six locations marked for future deer-management programs. The programs would cost about $150,000 and remove an estimated 355 deer initially.

The money would go a long way toward assisting a program that is "stretched as far as we can go," Gibbs told the Montgomery County Council's Public Safety Committee in a work session last Thursday. The deer-management program has two full-time employees covering 15,000 acres and was budgeted $121,000 for fiscal 2009 and $91,000 for fiscal 2010, according to a letter from Parks Department Director Mary Bradford to the council in August.

At Thursday's meeting, Council President Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) praised the deer-management program's work but was noncommittal about allocating more money.

Even if Friends of Sligo Creek members can come to an agreement on sharpshooting at the park, by the time a program could be implemented, the ecosystem would be damaged beyond repair, Gagne said.

She resigned from running the group's Removal of Invasive Plants program because her efforts were no match for the deer.

"Everybody is affected by it," Gagne said. "I can't imagine letting all these plants disappear."

Source: Washington Post

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WISCONSIN NEWS: Possible Word Record-Setting Deer, DNR to Receive No Credit

Do not let this record buck fool you--the DNR has ruined the herd! I read that on the internet somewhere.

A Wisconsin hunter is holding his breath and waiting to hear whether he will hold a hunting world record.

Michael Gregoire of Sheboygan Falls may break the current record for the largest whitetail rack of a buck he shot with a bow and arrow Thursday on his brother's farm.

The 12-point buck weighed 240 pounds and the rack was unofficially set at 217 5/8 inches.

The current record was set back in 1993 in Canada, with a rack of 213 5/8 inches. The state record is 206 1/8 inches.

There is a 60-day drying period Gregoire must sustain before the official measurements and scores are released.

Source: wkowtv

KANSAS NEWS: Shawnee Mission Park Cull Nets 313 Deer

Shawnee Mission State Park is 1250 acres, 150 of which is a lake. This harvest is the equivalent of 182 deer per square mile of habitat.

Volunteer sharpshooters killed 313 deer in Shawnee Mission Park last week, park officials reported Monday.

Randy Knight, a spokesman for the Johnson County Park and Recreation District, said the first phase of the park’s deer harvest has ended and the herd will be surveyed later this month to determine whether more deer should be killed.

If a second phase is needed, bow hunters would be brought in beginning Dec. 7.