Sharpshooters Considered for Rock Creek Park Deer Problem

National Park Service considering lethal and non-lethal options

Sharpshooters and euthanasia are among the options the National Park Service is considering to control the deer population in Rock Creek Park.

Over the past decade, that population has grown in size at an unmanageable rate, creating a problem for more than just drivers.

"They're eating everything. They're eating plants that are native to the ground, so those native plants are no longer there, new invasive species that aren't native are taking their place," said Bill Line, a spokesman for the National park Service.

Line says the deer are also eating seedlings from the trees in the forest, meaning the trees are not able to create new generations.

"Eventually when those trees die or blow over in a wind storm there's going to be nothing to replace them. Ultimately if it continues, Rock Creek Park would look very different than it does now."

On Tuesday the National Park Service released its final version of a plan to deal with the deer population. The options include a combination of lethal and non-lethal actions.

The non-lethal options would mean building large fence enclosures and sterilizing the deer to allow an acceptable level of reproduction.

The plan also calls for capturing individual deer and using euthanasia, as well as sharpshooters. Line said anyone concerned about sharpshooters in Rock Creek Park should know that the practice has been used several times in major parks, including: Valley Forge, Gettysburg and Catoctin Park surrounding Camp David. As well both Montgomery and Fairfax Counties have employed sharpshooters from their respective sheriff's departments to handle deer overpopulations since the 90's.

"There's been no incidents, no property damage. The attempt at culling the herd has been successful in all those locations," Line said.

People who live in Rock Creek Park know too well the deer are a nuisance.

"Not only have they been a hazard to traffic, but of course occasionally they come over to the neighborhoods and recently one even died in our neighbor's back yard," said Andy Foose, a resident of the area.

The National Park Service will announce its official removal decision within 30 days.

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