Philly hunters, listen up: an archery hunting season is planned for a portion of the 993-acre John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia and Tinicum Township to manage whitetail populations. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service is behind the “only legal deer hunt on public land within city borders,” The Inquirer reports.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission approves of the plan, which will divide 167 acres of the refuge into three sections to reduce the number of deer within the area. According to the plan, there will be buffer zones to keep hunters away from buildings, refuge boundaries and public roadways. There will also be an established 500-foot “no shooting zone” and safety zones near residential areas. The sections open to hunting will include a 63-acre parcel within Philadelphia’s borders near the Eastwick section and a 104-acre region in Tinicum Township adjacent to Darby Creek.
Since the refuge is a popular recreational area and home to a variety of wildlife, the area will be closed and signs posted in advance of the hunt.
Hunting within the refuge was banned in 1972. Since then, deer have thrived. Unfortunately, because deer are natural browsers, oak and maple saplings are unable to reach maturity and “invasive species are now the dominant vegetation on the refuge,” The Inquirer reports. Historically, the city has held urban deer culls and donated the meat to local food banks for distribution. Opening up the area to a limited number of hunters will hopefully assist in alleviating the damage caused to native vegetation because of too many deer.
The plan calls for 10 proposed days of hunting between mid-September and January. Wildlife officials say “about 25 deer would likely be killed,” according to The Inquirer. Tags would be distributed via a lottery system and preference given to first-time youth hunters. Firearms will be strictly prohibited because of the close proximity to residential areas and a busy airport.