White-Tailed Deer Management

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.

Over the past 20 years, an overabundant white-tailed deer population has negatively impacted Rock Creek Park. Prompted by a marked decline in forest regeneration, Rock Creek Park initiated a public process to create a plan, finalized in 2012, which calls for quickly reducing the density of deer to support long-term protection and restoration of native plants and to promote a healthy and diverse forest.

As the area around Rock Creek Park becomes more developed, the park is increasingly important as a refuge for plants and wildlife. It’s critical – as well as required by National Park Service management policies – that the natural resources which sustain the park’s wildlife be protected.

 

Deer Management

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.

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

After reduction operations, the National Park Service tests deer to ensure they do not have chronic wasting disease before the venison is donated to local food banks.


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.

During deer management operations, temporary night-time road closures will be in effect to provide for visitor and employee safety during reduction activities. Commuters, including cyclists, are advised to plan alternate routes.

 

Last updated: December 27, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

5200 Glover Rd, NW
Washington, DC 20015

Phone:

(202) 895-6000
Rock Creek Park administrative offices can be reached at 202-895-6000. For general information call 202-895-6070 Wednesday - Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and dial 0.

Contact Us

Tools