Deer Management 2016-2017
The National Park Service (NPS) will implement a deer management plan for Antietam National Battlefield beginning late 2016. This plan, approved in 2014, can be accessed at the following website: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=35457.
The purpose of this plan was to develop a deer management strategy that supports preservation of the historic battlefield landscape through the protection and restoration of native vegetation and other natural and cultural resources.
Although relatively rare at the turn of the twentieth century, white-tailed deer populations in the Mid-Atlantic region have grown during recent years. Deer thrive on food and shelter available in the "edge" habitat conditions created by suburban development. In addition, fragmentation of the landscape and the increase in development have reduced suitable hunting opportunities.
The size of the deer herd and deer population density has increased substantially over the years in Antietam National Battlefield, where hunting is prohibited by law. Current deer densities are roughly 10 times larger than commonly accepted sustainable densities for this region, estimated at about 15-20 deer per square mile. Results of vegetation monitoring in recent years have documented the effects of the large herd size on forest regeneration in the park. In addition, deer browsing has resulted in damage to crops and associated vegetation that are key components of the historic landscape. It is critical to the mission of Antietam National Battlefield to preserve and restore important cultural landscapes.
Extensive safety measures will be in place to protect park visitors and neighbors during deer reduction operations. We will continue to share additional information on this website with park neighbors and the public regarding implementation of deer management strategies as the process moves forward. The deer meat will be donated to local food banks, consistent with NPS public health guidelines.
For more information, go to our Frequently Asked Questions page