Valley Forge National Historical Park officials say sharpshooters will start killing deer next month and end the first season in March, with a goal of killing 500 animals this winter. They say the park can support about 35 deer per square mile, and the current population is about 240 per square mile, or about seven times what it should be. The program, run by a federal agency will send out a small team of professional hunters with silencers and night-vision equipment to reduce the herd. The agency employs sharpshooters and the contract calls for eliminating another 500 deer next winter and 250 to 300 more in each of the last two years of a four-year deal.
Park managers say they need to thin a herd that has grown large and destructive, devouring young trees and other environmentally-sensitive vegetation. In addition to decreasing environmental damage, the officials claim the reduction in deer will decrease the spread of Lyme Disease and vehicle crashes.
They originally planned to start the deer hunt last winter, but they delayed it so they could evaluate contractual issues and pending lawsuits by two animal-rights groups. Animal rights activists say the shootings are unnecessary and dangerous to people living nearby. Park officials respond that the hunt will take place during overnight hours to protect the public.
I understand that there is very real problem with deer in the park, but . . . is killing 500 deer the only answer? Animal activists were able to delay the hunt by a year with legal wranglings and are promising more intervention next month.