When we look back into our childhood, most of us are able recant the tale of Walt Disney’s classic Bambi. More specifically, the scene where his mother is killed while attempting to escape a hunter is forever emblazoned in our minds. Unfortunately for the deer who inhabit Washington D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, this may become a constant reality…sans the fictionalized talking forest creatures.

In attempt to reduce the amount of white tailed deer currently populating Rock Creek Park, the Montgomery County Parks Department has put plans in place a plan to hire sharp shooters to kill between 10 to 15 deer. This plan has been supported by a significant amount of residents in the area who feel as though there is a clear overpopulation in deer. Complaints include damage to the vegetation in their yards, large amounts of deer droppings and also the danger that can come about from deer causing car accidents. Once the deer are killed, the meat will be taken to a butcher and then donated to the capitol area food bank.

While many are in favor of the plan, there are several who oppose it. In fact, several residents have sued the National Park Service in effort to stop the use of sharpshooters to kill the deer. They would prefer a more humane method. In fact, there are many who are in support of methods that do not require the deer to be killed and have expressed their opinions on the matter. In a letter to the Washington Post, Jay Kirkpatrick and Allen Rutberg expressed their joint view that it was unnecessary:

As two scientists with extensive experience using fertility treatments to control wildlife populations, we want to set the record straight regarding whether the National Park Service needs to begin killing the white-tailed deer that live in Rock Creek Park — a small patch of nature in our nation’s capital. Our analysis of the data convinces us that any such measures to reduce the deer population in this park would be premature and unnecessary.”

They have proposed that instead of killing the deer, birth control can be introduced into their diets in an effort to significantly reduce the amount of offspring produced.

It is almost inevitable that in the wake of such an issue, PETA (People for the ethical treatment of animals) would have an opinion on the matter. They too issued a statement:

Science tells us that lethal control doesn’t reduce deer populations in urban settings and, in fact, can make things worse, since it causes a spike in the food supply, prompting does to breed at an accelerated rate. If the county insists on lethal measures, it will find itself in a cruel, endless, and pointless killing cycle. Tried and true urban wildlife management plans are integrative and adaptive, and the key is the elimination of artificial food sources. Once these are gone, deer will move on. Wildlife should never be deliberately fed, and feeding prohibitions must be strictly enforced. Residents should refrain from growing edible plants (pansies and other flowers) and instead plant native vegetation that has a natural resistance to browsing. Deer can be deterred with motion-detector sprinklers or lights, statues of coyotes or dogs, and repellents. Gardens can be protected with deer netting and saplings with corrugated plastic tubes or mesh (volunteers can be rallied to do this in parks). Deer fencing can be strategically installed along wildlife corridors (e.g., trails, paths, creeks) to further deter deer from entering areas where they are unwanted. Deer-vehicle collisions can be prevented with 10-foot-high deer fencing where wildlife corridors intersect major roadways. Brush along roadways should be removed or reduced in order to increase visibility for both drivers and deer. Reduced speed limits, “Deer Crossing” signs, and reflector systems (e.g., Strieter-Lite) along roadways are also effective…”

The plans to reduce the deer population have been put on hold until March 15 th while the issue is argued in court between lawyers on both sides. This is certainly an issue causing a great deal of controversy. What are your thoughts on the matter? How do you feel the situation should be handled?

(sources: WTOP, Washington Post, PETA)