The Washington Post

NPS plan to cull Rock Creek Park deer on hold pending federal court case, activists say

This post has been updated.

The National Park Service’s plans to cull the white-tailed deer population in Rock Creek Park this winter are on hold pending a federal court case, animal rights activists announced Wednesday.

Amid fears that deer are destroying the park’s vegetation and spilling out into surrounding neighborhoods, the National Park Service announced earlier this year it would use sharpshooters to kill as many as 157 this winter.


“We are pleased the National Park Service will not be killing deer in Rock Creek Park in a few weeks as originally planned, and hope that the agency will rethink its decision to kill any of this native wildlife and instead use less drastic measures to control any perceived overpopulation problem,” said Katerine Meyer, an attorney for the plaintiffs, including In Defense of Animals.

Park Service officials declined to comment Wednesday and referred question to the Justice Department. An attorney with the department made a copy of the order available. According to the order, there would be no baiting or hunting of the animals until March 15.

The fate of the deer in Rock Creek Park has been a long- running battle in Northwest as officials and residents consider how best to control the population.

Until the 1970s, there were only scattered reports of deer in the 4-square mile park that cuts through Northwest. Since then, the deer population has exploded to about 80 animals per square mile. Some residents complain the deer devour their shrubs and flowers each spring and summer. And Park Service officials say deer are damaging the park’s native vegetation.

After a year-long study, the Park Service concluded this summer that a controlled harvest of the population was needed through a combination of sharp shooters and birth control methods. The deer hunt, which would take place at night, was scheduled to start start next month. Eventually, Park Service officials hoped to reduce the herd to about 20 animals per square mile.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are trying to persuade the Park Service to instead consider non-lethal options for controlling the herd. They expect a court to rule on the matter by March.

Over the years, animal-rights activists have suggested a range of solutions for thinning the herd, ranging from trapping and relocating to reintroducing more predators into the park.

Animal-rights activists said they believe the order in effect delays any baiting and hunting of deer for at least a year because of the spring birthing season as well as the busy summer season.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
How to make Sean Brock's 'Heritage' cornbread
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
The signature dish of Charleston, S.C.
Play Videos
Why seasonal allergies make you miserable
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
What you need to know about filming the police
Play Videos
The Post taste tests Pizza Hut's new hot dog pizza
5 tips for using your thermostat
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
The signature drink of New Orleans