NPS: Safety is top priority in Rock Creek deer hunt

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – The shooting and killing of deer in Rock Creek Park will resume Friday evening, with safety as the top priority.

“If we have any inkling whatsoever that there is any safety problem, operations will be ceased immediately,” says Carol Johnson with the National Park Service.

“We just want to make sure that this is done as quickly and as humanely as possible.”

The park service this week is working to reduce overpopulation with the controlled hunt.

Johnson also says that residents who live close to the park should not be concerned, but urges them to follow the signage that is posted for the hunt.

Some roads in the park are being temporarily closed between 10 p.m. Friday and 4 a.m. Saturday as sharpshooters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture continue the controlled hunt.

During this first part of what will be a three-year effort to reduce the number of deer in the park, NPS decided not to give the animals birth control drugs. Johnson says in the future, the contraception option will be reconsidered.

“When we get the herd to a manageable number, we are of course going to be looking at reproductive agents as long as they meet the criteria that we can use them safely and effectively.”

NPS won’t say how many deer have been killed so far, but an announcement is expected sometime after sharpshooting ends this weekend.

“I do know that at the end of the week, we are certainly going to let people know what we’ve accomplished and how well it was accomplished,” Johnson says.

In addition to providing the total number of deer killed, Johnson also plans to provide a tally of the amount of deer meat from the hunt that is being donated to charities that feed the needy.

Johnson says collisions between deer and cars in the park have been on the increase for years.

“That’s a big problem that we want to addressed,” she says. “We want to make sure people traveling through Rock Creek Park are safe.”

Opponents of the hunt have pledged to protest each day the shooting continues.

“We know that there are people that don’t agree with this operation, but that is certainly within their rights,” Johnson says.

“These kinds of decisions (about shooting the deer) are difficult, but they’re ones that have to be made to protect the natural resources, the deer themselves and the visitors to our parks.”

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