Why manage deer at Catoctin Mountain Park?
Since Catoctin Mountain Park was established in 1936, deer populations throughout the country have rebounded and are now higher than at any other time in their known history. By the 1970s, problems related to an overabundance of deer in the park were suspected. The National Park Service and other researchers conducted multiple studies to document the size of the park’s deer population, as well as plant growth in the understory of the mature forest canopy. In areas where deer were excluded, plant species richness and abundance were significantly higher. Data indicated that by 2009, forest regeneration was nearly absent within the majority of the park, due in large part to high deer numbers.
Where can I find the White-tailed Deer Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?
The plan can be accessed via the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website.
Will the meat be donated?
Yes, venison will be donated to local food banks and other organizations, consistent with NPS public health guidelines. Since 2009, more than 36,000 pounds of venison from Catoctin has been donated to local nonprofits to serve those in need.
Why don’t you allow hunting in the park to control the deer population?
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 the park does not authorize hunting.
How many deer are in the park and what is the deer density goal?
Deer density spotlight surveys have been conducted in the park since 1989. The highest deer density recorded was 193 deer per square mile in 2003. Before the first season of deer management began in February 2010, there were approximately 123 deer per square mile in the park. The initial deer density goal set forth in the EIS is 15-20 deer per square mile. This was achieved for the first time in January 2016. This goal is based on recent research conducted in eastern deciduous forests similar to Catoctin’s forest and may change based on the results of annual vegetation monitoring. Deer reduction will take place annually or as needed to maintain the target density.
Is deer management working?
Yes. A total of 1,340 deer have been removed from the park in nine years. As of 2009, there were 255 seedlings per acre in the park, compared to 2,547 per acre in forests of other national parks in the National Capital Region. As of 2016, the average tree seedling level at Catoctin is now 3,078 per acre. This 10-fold increase in seedling density in just eight years demonstrates that deer management can be an effective tool in promoting seedling regeneration.
Will I still be able to see deer when I’m at the park?
Yes. This plan is designed to bring the deer population to a level that allows the park’s forests to regenerate. White-tailed deer are part of the ecosystem, and future generations of park visitors will continue to have the opportunity to see deer.
When will deer be removed and will it be safe to visit the Park during this time?
The 10th season of deer management will occur from February-March 2019. The safety of park visitors and staff is our primary concern during deer reduction activities. Deer herd reduction will be conducted during the colder months when park visitation is typically low. To assure visitor safety, certain areas of the park will be closed during reduction activities. Closure maps are available on the park website and closed areas will be clearly posted.
Are there other National Park Service areas that are doing deer management?
Four parks in the National Capital Region have implemented white-tailed deer management plans: Antietam National Battlefield, Catoctin Mountain Park, and Monocacy National Battlefield in Maryland, and Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. Catoctin has actively worked to reduce deer populations since 2010 and has seen a more than 10-fold increase in tree seedling density.
National Park Service areas in other regions are actively performing deer management including Gettysburg National Military Park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Valley Forge National Historical Park, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
What if I have a question that is not addressed here?
Catoctin Mountain Park will issue press releases to announce management actions and post this information on this website. Please contact us at e-mail us with any further questions.