What is the purpose of the Deer Management Plan?
The purpose of the Antietam National Battlefield White-tailed Deer Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (plan/EIS) is to provide an effective deer management strategy that supports long-term protection, preservation, and restoration of native vegetation, wildlife and other natural and cultural resources in the battlefield, including viable crop yields for cooperating farmers. The secondary purpose of the plan/EIS is to provide a chronic wasting disease (CWD) response strategy that is fully integrated with deer management and that will reduce the probability of occurrence, promote early detection and reduce the probability of the spread of CWD.
The plan can be accessed via the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website.
Deer eat a variety of plants, including young trees. The overpopulation of white-tailed deer on the battlefield has caused harm to the resources by limiting forest regeneration and structure in the forest canopy. This has created an “unhealthy” forest where invasive exotic species thrive, which harms birds and other wildlife.
Deer population density surveys conducted by park staff in the fall of 2018 determined that there were approximately 58 deer per square mile or 174 deer on the battlefield. While the annual survey numbers have fluctuated over time, the overall trend has been upward.
The goal is population density of 15-20 deer per square mile, or 45-60 deer on the 3 square mile battlefield. This number was determined by a team of scientists and specialists from a variety of state and federal agencies. The target deer density for the park may change (up or down) based on the results of vegetation monitoring in battlefield forests and crop yield monitoring on agricultural lands.
The selected alternative from the plan/EIS (Alternative D) incorporates lethal and nonlethal actions to reduce and then maintain the deer population at a level that protects native plant communities, promotes forest regeneration and habitat, and allows for successful crop production to maintain the historic scene.
For a control agent to be acceptable, NPS has established that it must:
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) was included as part of this plan because the battlefield lies within a 60 mile radius of known CWD cases. The park has an approved Environmental Assessment (EA) for dealing with this disease if it moves near or within the battlefield boundary. The EA was written and included in this plan/EIS to work in conjunction with the State of Maryland’s efforts to control the spread of this disease in the deer population. There is currently no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans or domestic livestock. The park will test deer prior to donation to food banks.
Yes, two public meetings were held during the development of the plan/EIS. Public comments were taken and considered in the preparation of the plan/EIS. Comments and responses to them are included in the document.
Yes, the NPS selected a final deer management alternative and the decision is final. The Record of Decision documents NPS approval of the plan, selects the alternative to be implemented, and sets forth stipulations required for implementation. It was signed by the NPS National Capital Regional Director in the summer of 2014.
To make this action as safe as possible for park visitors, neighbors and staff, we will share specific information on these actions with local law enforcement and other state and local officials to ensure coordination. The details of implementation – including what, when and where actions on the ground will take place – will not be provided to the public.
The park’s top priority is the safety of park visitors, neighbors, and staff. Extensive safety measures will be put into place to ensure a safe and successful operation. Safety measures will include:
Will the meat be donated?
Yes, venison will be donated to local food banks and other organizations, consistent with NPS public health guidelines. In 2018, four national parks in Maryland and the District of Columbia donated more than 14,000 pounds of venison to local nonprofits that serve those in need.
Hunting isn’t allowed in a national park unless it was specifically authorized in the legislation that established the park or by any subsequent law. The laws establishing these parks do not authorize hunting.
The plan/EIS is intended to guide long-term management of white-tailed deer in the battlefield. While the reproductive rate of deer may increase in response to a decrease in the overall population and some deer may move into the park from the surrounding area, future deer removal actions would take into consideration any population growth and adjust management actions as needed.
Will I still be able to see deer when I’m at the battlefield?
Yes. This plan is designed to bring the deer population to a level that allows the park’s forests to regenerate and the crop fields to be productive to maintain the historic battlefield landscape. White-tailed deer are part of the ecosystem, and future generations of park visitors will continue to have the opportunity to see deer on the battlefield.
How can I stay updated on deer management?
Antietam National Battlefield will issue press releases to announce management actions and post this information on this website. Email us if you have further questions.
Last updated: February 4, 2019