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Petitions Ask to End Deer Killing

August 7th, 2013 by Anja Heister

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 5, 2013) – Washington, D.C. residents today petitioned the National Park Service to halt all further killing of deer in Rock Creek Park, based on new information from an expert that deer are not the cause of any forest regeneration problems in the Park. The group, joined by In Defense of Animals and the Washington Humane Society, presented two petitions to the Park Service: a legal petition, pointing to a new analysis by a leading forest ecologist at Yale University casting serious doubt on the Park Service’s interpretation of the scientific studies used to justify the killing; and a change.org petition signed by nearly 12,000 people opposing any further killing of deer in our Nation’s Capital.

In Defense of Animals“The Park Service’s original decision to kill this native wildlife for the first time in 120 years made no sense,” said D.C. resident Carol Grunewald, “but continuing to kill these animals in light of this new information would be particularly inhumane and a waste of taxpayer money.”

In Defense of Animals’ Campaign Director Anja Heister added, “It is now clear that there is no evidence deer are causing damage to the native vegetation in Rock Creek Park – the Park Service’s own internal documents show that it’s exotic, invasive plants from private properties along the Park’s border that are displacing the native vegetation.  And even if the deer population needed to be controlled, there are far more effective and humane ways to do so.”

Washington Humane Society Vice President Scott Giacoppo urged the Park Service to reconsider how it is managing deer in Rock Creek Park.  “There simply is no need to continue to bait and shoot these unsuspecting animals with guns,” he said.

Highlights of the petitions include:

  • An analysis of the Park Service’s own data by Dr. Oswald Schmitz, Director of Yale University’s Institute for Biospheric Studies, showing that deer are not preventing the Rock Creek Park forest from regenerating;
  • Evidence that a much more serious threat to the park’s native vegetation is the increasing number of invasive exotic plants choking the Park’s native vegetation; forcing deer to leave the Park in search of food, resulting in an increased risk of car collisions and damage to neighboring landscaping;
  • Overwhelming public concern that killing native deer with guns will change the character of the park “from a haven of peace and tranquility to just one more place of violence;” and
  • Increased use of nonlethal fertility control in other parts of the country.


“With this information, the Park Service has no rational reason to kill deer again this fall.  It’s clear the deer don’t spread exotic plants or inhibit forest regeneration,” said Jessica Almy, a lawyer at Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, the public interest law firm that prepared the legal petition.

Referring to recent Congressional testimony by Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis that the sequester has caused the agency to cut vital services to national parks throughout the country and impose a hiring freeze, Carol Grunewald added, “Why would the Park Service continue to spend tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on killing deer again, when the scientific data show that the deer are not the problem?”