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.