National Park Service taking aim at deer in Rock Creek Park - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

National Park Service taking aim at deer in Rock Creek Park

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The National Park Service is green lighting a controversial plan to thin the deer population in Rock Creek Park - by using sharpshooters!

You won't hear a shot fired until next year, but it is apparently a done deal.

Over the next three years, government sharp shooters - using rifles - will begin cutting down deer inside the park.

Park rangers say it is not to keep deer from colliding with cars, but to save the forest.

"It's very critical because if we don't do it, then the forest is going to change and the Rock Creek that you see around you is not going to be here in 50 years," says Chief Ranger Nick Bartolomeo.

It's a treasure in our nation's capital. A little more than four square miles of creek, fields and footpaths. But the Park Service says those innocent-looking white tail deer are destroying the vegetation.

"It's hard to talk about killing deer," says Marc Gordon, who rides his bike to and from work through the park. "But there is an overpopulation issue."

The National Park Service plans to thin the herd from roughly 80 deer per square mile to 15 to 20 deer per square mile.

"We're going to do it initially with three years of sharpshooting," Ranger Bartolomeo says. 

They will be using employees with the Department of Agriculture.

"USDA was a perfect fit because they have done it in many national parks and federal facilities," he says.

The Park Service started studying the effects of deer on Rock Creek Park 22 years ago. It has produced a 500-page Environmental Impact Statement.

The plan is to kill approximately 120 deer the first year.

"I'm OK with it," says D.C. resident Anne Marie Boehler. "There are too many deer."

Ranger Bartolomeo says they tried finding a form of birth control to manage the deer population.

"And to date, we have not found a contraceptive that could effectively do the job," he says.

Bartolomeo says don't worry, they won't be wasting the venison.

"When we sharpshoot a deer, we plan to donate the meat to local food banks here in the District of Columbia," he says.

Some District residents are not buying it.

"I'm sure we can find better ways to feed the homeless people," says Eric Gray, "than to snipe the deer."

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