How National Park Service’s deer management program is helping DC-area food banks

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained an inaccurate reference to the hunting season in D.C. The headline has been updated. 

The D.C. area has a thriving deer population and, in some areas, an overabundance of deer. Each year, the National Park Service takes steps to reduce the population, and the result of it is food for people in need.

“Deer really love to eat the vegetation in our forests, particularly young tree seedlings, and we found that they’ve caused a lot of damage over the years,” said Megan Nortrup with the National Park Service.

Each year, sharp shooters, who are also biologists, go into parks at night as part of the NPS’ deer management program. This year, that operation at parks in D.C., Maryland and Virginia has resulted in almost 14,000 pounds of venison being donated to food banks. That meat was later turned into 55,000 meals.

“It’s kind of a win-win. We get help for our neighbors in need and we’re helping preserve our forests,” Nortrup said.

Nortrup said the meat is tested, and if it passes inspection, it is sent to food banks such as the Maryland Food Bank, which services many counties in the state and the city of Baltimore.

The meat comes from deer management work in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Monocacy National Battlefield and Rock Creek Park among others.

President and CEO of the Maryland Food Bank, Carmen Del Guercio, said this year’s donation from NPS resulted in more than 7,000 pounds of food for the organization, which he said is not only very nutritious but also considered a luxury for many.

“Venison in particular is (a) high-protein, low-fat option that a lot of folks either have had some experience before, but don’t have regular access to it, or never tried it before and really have an opportunity to taste it for the first time,” said Del Guercio.

Del Guercio said protein is in need right now as the organization has seen a 15% spike in demand due in part to inflation. He said where people are in the most need may surprise people.

“The highest levels of food insecurity occur in some pretty rural markets on the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland, as well as in more emerging markets, like Baltimore City,” he said.

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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