To protect and restore native vegetation, promote healthy and diverse forests, and preserve historic landscapes, four western Maryland national parks are preparing to implement previously approved white-tailed deer management plans. The National Park Service will donate all suitable meat from reduction activities to local food banks. Last year, national parks in western Maryland and the District of Columbia donated more than 14,000 pounds of venison to local food banks.
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park will conduct its first season of deer reduction activities, Antietam National Battlefield and Monocacy National Battlefield will conduct their third season of deer reduction activities, and Catoctin Mountain Park will continue with the 10th year of its deer management efforts. For public safety, limited park areas will be temporarily closed while reduction operations are underway. Visitors and area residents are encouraged to check their local park’s website for the most up-to-date information and are reminded to respect posted closures.
Overabundant deer populations damage vegetation and eat nearly all the tree seedlings, compromising the ability of forests to sustain themselves. Deer also damage the crops that are a key component of the historic setting, as crop farming was present at the battlefields during the Civil War and the parks’ enabling legislation mandates preservation of these important cultural landscapes.
Extensive safety measures will be in place to protect park visitors and neighbors during operations. Biologists, who are also highly trained firearms experts via the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will work under the direction of National Park Service resource management specialists and in coordination with law enforcement park rangers to perform reduction operations in a manner proven safe and effective. Hunting is not legal in these four western Maryland national parks.
Deer management has produced positive results at several area national parks. Catoctin Mountain Park (Md.) has actively worked to reduce deer populations in the park since 2010 and has seen more than a 10-fold increase in seedling density over the past nine years. Several additional national parks across the country actively manage deer populations including Rock Creek Park (D.C.), Gettysburg National Military Park (Pa.), Valley Forge National Historical Park (Pa.) and Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Oh.).
Story re-posted from National Parks Traveler. Written by NPT Staff.