Study aims to end Rock Creek Park deer hunt

WASHINGTON – A deer hunt in D.C.’s Rock Creek Park that started in March and stopped for the summer is expected to resume this fall.

But opponents who tried to stop the hunt in court and failed are trying again.

The National Park Service has said the deer hunt is needed because the animals are eating so many native plants that the park can’t recover.

But a study by Dr. Oswald Schmitz, director of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, came to a different conclusion.

“What the Yale University professor found was that deer are not inhibiting forest regeneration in Rock Creek Park,” Jessica Almy, an attorney representing opponents of the hunt told WTOP.

“He was looking at the Park Service’s own research, and the way they did the research was they fenced off some plots of land in Rock Creek Park and they left some unfenced and then they measured what plants were there. The idea was that they would see what deer were doing to the plants,” says Almy.

“What’s interesting is they found that, of course, that deer eat plants. That’s no surprise. But what this Yale University professor tells us is that the deer eat some of the small plants, but they don’t eat the plants that are necessary for forest regeneration,” Almy says.

The study results are included in what’s called a petition for rulemaking that Almy delivered Monday to Rock Creek Park Superintendent Tara Morrison, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

“This is a petition for rulemaking, and under the Administrative Procedure Act the government and its federal agencies needs to respond to a petition like this within a reasonable amount of time,” said Almy.

In addition, more than 11,000 people have signed a petition calling for the deer hunt to stop.

“People are appalled to find out that we are killing native deer in this urban park. They’re just such a treasure. People are delighted when they see these deer in the park,” Almy says.

“We think that the National Park Service will take this petition very seriously because the Park Service cares a lot about good science, and the best science right now shows that the deer are not having the impacts that they were previously believed to have. That means there’s no reason to kill the deer. That, coupled with the strong public opposition to this kill, means there’s no good justification to keep on killing deer in Rock Creek Park,” she adds.

Almy says she’s hopeful the National Park Service will meet with hunt opponents before the shooting resumes this year.

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