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Contact: Chelsea Sullivan, 202-619-7177
WASHINGTON—Catoctin Mountain Park, Antietam and Monocacy national battlefields, Manassas National Battlefield Park, and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and Harpers Ferry national historical parks will conduct deer management operations in 2023 to protect and restore native plants, promote healthy and diverse forests, and preserve historic landscapes. Operations will take place from Jan. 30 to April 30, 2023.
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 (NPS) natural resource management specialists and in coordination with law enforcement rangers and local law enforcement, to conduct reduction actions at night when the parks are normally closed.
Some park areas will be temporarily closed while reduction operations are underway. Visitors and area residents are encouraged to check their local national park’s website for the most up-to-date information and are reminded to respect posted closures. Hunting is illegal in these national parks.
Whenever possible, the NPS will donate all suitable meat from reduction activities to local food banks, consistent with NPS public health guidelines. Last year, these national parks donated more than 7,000 pounds of venison to local food banks. Manassas National Battlefield Park did not perform deer operations last year.
All six parks are implementing previously approved white-tailed deer management plans. This is the third year of deer management operations at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the fourth year for Manassas National Battlefield Park, the fifth year for Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, the seventh year for Antietam and Monocacy national battlefields, and the 14th year for Catoctin Mountain Park.
Overabundant deer populations damage vegetation and eat nearly all the tree seedlings, compromising the ability of forests to continue to regenerate themselves. This has created “unhealthy” forests where invasive exotic species thrive, which harms birds and other wildlife. Unhealthy forests could prevent the forests from continuing for further generations. Deer also damage the crops that are a key component of the historic setting in historical and battlefield parks. Crop farming is part of important cultural landscapes whose preservation is mandated by these parks’ enabling legislation.
Deer management has produced positive results at several area national parks. Catoctin Mountain Park has actively worked to reduce deer populations in the park since 2010 and has seen a 19-fold increase in seedling density over the past 13 years. Several additional national parks across the country actively manage deer populations including Rock Creek Park (D.C.), Gettysburg National Military Park (Pa.), Fire Island National Seashore (N.Y.), Valley Forge National Historical Park (Pa.) and Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio).
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 424 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
Last updated: January 18, 2023