the National Park Service recently shared plans to control the deer population in the DC area and reduce deer numbers by 15-20% over the next 10 years. According to OMCPofficials are considering adding wolves or bears to the parks to introduce natural predators.
“What is happening is [the deer are] facing no real predation,” said Sean McGinty, an NPS spokesman.
The deer have thrived in the National Capital East parks with “low levels of disease, mild winters, favorable habitats and vegetation in and around the parks, and no natural predators,” according to the NPS. an official Deer management plan for DC and Maryland parks under NPS management has yet to be implemented, but the high density of animals in the area makes one necessary. A 2021 NPS assessment showed an average deer population of nearly 200 deer seen per night and nearly 175 deer per square mile in recent years. This concentration of animals has raised concerns about habitat and human-wildlife conflict among wildlife officials.
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“In forests, deer can dramatically reduce forest regeneration by damaging and eating tree seedlings and young trees,” McGinty said. “Over time, this can degrade forests and the habitat they provide for other animals and plants.”
Adding natural predators to the area would theoretically help reduce deer numbers, though McGinty told OMCP there really isn’t enough wilderness for black bears in the area. Adding wolves or bears to the cull deer population would only be part of the solution if implemented, he said. He didn’t mention any of the red tape involved in trying to introduce an already controversial predator to the nation’s capital. Hunting is not permitted in national parks, and many parks targeted for deer reduction are managed under the National Capital Parkumbrella.
Additional management measures would include the use of snipers and trained biologists to safely reduce the deer population in the area. This program should not interfere with existing deer hunting licenses or deer seasons, and venison collected from any slaughter will be donated to local pantries. The plan would impact Anacostia Park, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, Fort Mahan, Fort Dupont, Fort Davis, Fort Chaplin, Fort Stanton, Fort Ricketts, Fort Greble, Battery Carroll and Shepherd Parkway in Washington DC NPS also presented plans for Maryland parks, including Fort Washington Park, Fort Foote, Piscataway Park, Oxon Cove Park, Harmony Hall, Greenbelt Park, Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Suitland Parkway.