White-tailed Deer Management

Are there too many deer?

Deer herds throughout the eastern United States were heavily hunted after the arrival of Europeans around 1600. In the early 1900s, deer populations began to increase due to a lack of predators and increased availability of food and habitat. Today, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has an overabundant population of white-tailed deer. Long-term monitoring of white-tailed deer populations and their effect on park plant communities indicate that at current densities, the park’s forest cannot sustain itself. Damage by dense deer populations is widespread and documented across ecological systems, wildlife, and plant communities, and adversely impacts the park’s historic landscapes.

Deer Management at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

The National Park Service balances the needs of wildlife and plants in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, while also maintaining the park’s historic landscape. Research has shown that vegetation damage occurs when deer populations exceed 20 per square mile. Reducing the deer population is needed to allow regeneration in a healthy, diverse forest that supports native vegetation and wildlife, including deer. The National Park Service uses an adaptive management approach that is flexible based on how deer and vegetation populations respond.

Without continued management, deer populations would quickly rebound and eat nearly all tree seedlings and other plants before they could grow. Scientists will monitor the response of park vegetation to fewer deer in order to inform future deer management practices.

During Deer Management

Extensive safety measures will be in place during operations, which will take place at night when the park is closed. Highly trained firearms experts experienced in conducting wildlife population reduction operations will work under the direction of National Park Service (NPS) natural resource management specialists and in coordination with park law enforcement rangers to conduct reduction actions safely and effectively.
 

Frequently Asked Questions

The National Park Service (NPS) developed a Deer Management Plan/Environmental Assessment (plan/EA) 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 park.

Yes whenever possible, venison will be donated to local food banks and other organizations, consistent with NPS public health guidelines.

Research has shown that vegetation damage occurs when deer populations exceed 20 per square mile. Park service staff will continue to monitor and assess the park’s vegetation as deer management progresses. Until sustainable forest regeneration is occurring within the park, we will continue to manage deer populations.

The park participates in a CWD monitoring program. To date all results for the park have been negative.

No. Public hunting at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is not authorized in the park’s legislation.

Yes. The management 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 in the park.

Several parks in the National Capital Area are implementing white-tailed deer management plans: Antietam National Battlefield, Catoctin Mountain Park, Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Monocacy National Battlefield, National Capital Parks - East, and Rock Creek Park. Catoctin has actively worked to reduce deer populations since 2010 and has seen a 21-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, Fire Island National Seashore, Valley Forge National Historical Park, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Please email us with any questions or concerns.

 
 

Harpers Ferry Deer Management News Releases

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    Last updated: March 5, 2024

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    Mailing Address:

    Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
    National Park Service
    PO Box 65

    Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

    Phone:

    304 535-6029

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