History of White-tailed Deer in Rock Creek Park
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are common throughout North and Central America. Without natural predators and with favorable habitat, deer have flourished in Rock Creek Park. Before 1960, there were no recorded sightings of white-tailed deer in the park. By the early 1990s, sightings were so frequent that the park stopped recording them. Their numbers in the last decade have reached nearly 100 per square mile at the peak.
The National Park Service must balance the needs of all animals and plants in Rock Creek Park. A consistent deer population density of 15-20 per square mile 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.
During Deer Management
Extensive safety measures are 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, work under the direction of National Park Service resource management specialists, in coordination with U.S. Park Police and local law enforcement, to conduct reduction actions at night when the park is normally closed.
Last updated: May 8, 2019