White Tailed Deer Management
Deer Management 2015-2016
The fourth window of action for deer reduction is December 1, 2015 through March 31, 2016. During this fourth year of implementing the plan, the National Park Service intends to reduce the population by about 26 deer. This is consistent with efforts to reduce the population by 50 percent each year, and maintain the population at a level that will allow recovery of vegetation in the park.
Extensive safety measures will be in place to protect park visitors and neighbors during operations. Biologists, who are also highly trained firearms experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be working under the direction of National Park Service resource management specialists and in coordination with the U.S. Park Police and local law enforcement to conduct reduction actions at night when the park is normally closed.
The following road closures in NW D.C. may be in effect from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. when operations are underway: Ross Dr.; Ridge Rd. south of Grand Rd.; Glover Rd. south of the Rock Creek Horse Center; and Horse Stable Rd. The following additional temporary closures between 8:30 p.m. and 4 a.m. may be in effect during operations: Beach Drive from Rock Creek & Potomac Pkwy. to the Maryland boundary; 17th street from the Woodner Apartment to Piney Branch Pkwy.; Piney Branch Pkwy; Porter St. ramp to Beach Dr. east of Williamsburg Ln.; Blagden Ave. west of Mathewson Dr.; Broad Branch Rd. east of Ridge Rd.; Wise Rd.; entire length of Glover Rd.; entire length of Ridge Rd.; Grand Rd.; Sherrill Dr.; Joyce Rd.; Morrow Dr.; West Beach Dr. at Parkside Dr.; Stage Rd.; and Bingham Dr.
History of White-tailed Deer in Rock Creek Park
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are common throughout North and Central America. Without natural predators and with favorable habitat, deer have flourished in Rock Creek Park. Before 1960, there were no recorded sightings of white-tailed deer in the park. By the early 1990s, sightings were so frequent that the park stopped recording them. Their numbers in the last decade have reached up to nearly 100 per square mile at its peak.
Over the last 20 years, this overabundant white-tailed deer population has negatively impacted Rock Creek Park. The deer are damaging vegetation and eating nearly all the tree seedlings and compromising the ability of the Rock Creek Park’s forest from sustaining itself. The high number of deer is also destroying smaller trees and shrubs that provide critical habitat for native birds and other wildlife. If deer populations go unmanaged, this wildlife will not have food and shelter.
As the area around Rock Creek Park becomes more developed, the park is increasingly important as a refuge for plants and wildlife. It’s critical – as well as required by NPS management policies -- that the natural resources which sustain the park’s wildlife be protected.
Rock Creek Park conducted an Environmental Impact Statement and an extensive public process to create a plan, finalized in 2012, that calls for quickly reducing the size of the population to allow for a healthy, diverse forest that supports native vegetation and other wildlife. Once the herd size is at a healthy level, management efforts will work to maintain a sustainable deer population, which could be carried out through both lethal and non-lethal means.
After reduction operations, the National Park Service donates all suitable venison to food banks that serve needy families and homeless shelters in the Washington, D.C. area.
FAQ Rock Creek Park Deer Management Plan (updated November 2014)
12/2/14 NPS Announces Deer Management Window of Action
4/9/14 NPS Donates 3,300 pounds of venison to DC Central Kitchen (pdf)