Those of us in Pennsylvania deer country don't associate the nation's capitol as being a prime area for white tail but they have overrun the suburbs, forcing the National Park Service to resort to lethal force.

A sanctioned deer hunt at Rock Creek Park, which bisects the northwestern urban areas of Washington, D.C., is underway and will continue through the end of March to control the herds. The NPS, which administers the park, reports 77 deer per square mile in the park, about four times the number of deer it can sustain.

The target is to kill 106 deer during the three-month window, but getting the population down to the goal of 15 to 20 per square mile could take several years.

The over-population has been causing problems in nearby streets and neighborhoods. One resident said it's not unusual to see the deer wandering on Connecticut Avenue during rush hour.

Some homeowners have also complained about the deer eating their plants, something many homeowners in this area can attest to. NPS spokesperson Jennifer Anzelmo-Sarles reported that will eat almost all tree seedlings and if new plants and new trees can't grow, the forest can't regenerate.

Last spring, the park service won a legal battle for an open hunt after an animal rights group argued that the use of non-lethal methods like chemical birth control would be better. A judge reaffirmed the Park Service's authority to kill the deer.

Sharpshooters have also been used to manage the white-tailed deer population at Gettysburg and Eisenhower parks.

The meat isn't being wasted. Venison from the hunts goes to food banks and homeless shelters to feed the needy. Meat from a single day's hunt can provide 2,500 meals.

Deer management can be difficult in an urban area like Washington. The problem at the park is immediate and the use of professional marksmen is the most efficient way to address it.

By Jim Zbick

editor@tnonline.com