Roads in Rock Creek Park will be closed at night throughout the winter while the National Parks Service shoots deer in an effort to significantly reduce the white-tailed deer population.
Similar efforts in March 2013 and from December 2013 to March 2014 killed 126 deer, cutting the deer density — previously about 77 animals per square mile of park — roughly in half. The Parks Service said that its goal is a population density of 15 to 20 deer per square mile, and after this season of shooting, it might achieve that.
The season’s hunting, carried out entirely by expert sharpshooters since private recreational hunting is illegal in the park, will cost about $53,000, according to a National Parks Service document on the deer reduction program.
Drivers will be unable to access many roads through the park, including parts of Beach Drive, Piney Branch Parkway, Wise Road, Ridge Road and Ross Drive, when the sharpshooters are at work. Some closures will start at 5 p.m. and others at 8:30 p.m. The roads will reopen at 4 a.m. each morning.
Bicycles, like other vehicles, will not be allowed on the roads when they are closed.
The National Parks Service has said that reducing the deer population is necessary because the deer eat plant seedlings before they can grow. Over the past two spells of hunting activity, the Parks Service donated the venison meat to D.C. Central Kitchen — a total of 3,900 pounds.
Once the deer population reaches the level that the Parks Service desires, staff will continue to take actions — potentially including hunting and treating does with contraceptives — to prevent the population from increasing again, the Parks Service document said.