Three national military battlefields in Maryland and Virginia have an overpopulation of whitetail deer wrecking the plant life and causing problems, which the National Park Service plans to handle by hiring sharpshooters to kill the deer.
Unlike other urban and park programs that allow bowhunting, however, the National Park Service is not allowing and reportedly did not consider bowhunting as a viable option. Veteran outdoor writer Ken Perrotte has the story in The Free Lance-Star newspaper, and says those he spoke with believe the National Park Service has a bias against hunting.
National parks are protected areas and wildlife flourishes because of no pressure, hunting or being bothered by humans. That can lead to problems, such as overpopulation, disease, devastation of natural forage and human-animal interactions such as vehicle accidents. Predators such as coyotes, bears or wolves, in their respective regions, also could gain a stronger foothold and add another layer of complexity.
Perrotte reports that the National Park Service needs to kill about 3,000 deer at Manassas in Virginia and Monocacy and Antietam in Maryland, and wants to pay an estimated $1.067 million for the sharpshooters. That’s about $355,600 per park. Kind of a steep price per deer, too. Taxpayers would be footing this bill, of course, since the park service is funded by visitor’s fees and appropriations.
Perrotte reports that deer densities are as high as 236 per square mile at Monocacy. Think about that for a second … 236 deer per square mile. That’s an estimate, but biologists’ estimates are pretty good these days with better night vision, heat vision and formulaic ways to estimate populations. That is a lot of deer. The numbers are 172 per square mile at Manassas and 131 at Antietam. The NPS plan reports that 15-25 deer per square mile is desirable for sustainable densities … a monstrous drop from current numbers.
So how to go about that? Hunting, of course, would be a possibility. But the NPS says Congress would have to authorize hunting within parks, even if it were an option. The newspaper report says that Bryan Gorsira, an NPS natural resources manager involved in drafting the plan, said hunting is not even being considered as an option and NPS management policies specifically prohibit hunting in parks.
It was allowed in Colorado in 2006 in Rocky Mountain National Park, however, for an elk problem. A state park near Manassas has controlled deer hunts and its manager has offered assistance to NPS officials, who declined.
So, for now, it looks like taxpayers may pay more than a million bucks for sharpshooters to kill bucks.