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Controlled hunts to manage deer populations are underway at these parks

Operations to reduce white-tailed deer populations will take place from Jan. 30 to April 30, 2023.

MANASSAS, Va. — The annual deer management program is now underway at six national parks and historic sites overseen by the National Park Service

Catoctin Mountain Park, Antietam and Monocacy national battlefields, Manassas National Battlefield Park, and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and Harpers Ferry national historical parks are conducting the deer reduction operations to protect and restore native plants, promote healthy and diverse forests, and preserve historic landscapes. 

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, are working under the direction of 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, NPS said in a press release. 

According to the park service, these deer management operations are necessary because 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. 

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