Animal Lovers Defend Deer in Rock Creek Park

     WASHINGTON (CN) – In Defense of Animals sued the National Park Service to stop it from a mass killing of deer in Washington’s Rock Creek Park.
     Most of the 1,750-acre park is north of the National Zoo. It’s a sylvan delight beloved by residents of the nation’s capital and Maryland.
     The killing is set to begin in December, the plaintiffs say.
     Five DC residents joined In Defense of Animals in suing National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. They want to stop the first authorized killing of animals in Rock Creek Park’s 120-year history.
     “This unprecedented and extreme approach to reducing the population of native wildlife that, according to the Park Service’s own data, has remained relatively stable for at least ten years and decreased in many years under natural conditions without any human interference, is unwarranted, particularly when NPS also concedes that the deer pose no urgent threat to the Park or any of its resources,” the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs say the Park Service drafted its first environmental impact statement in 2009, coming up with four alternatives to manage deer in Rock Creek Park.
     Two alternatives involved nonlethal methods: putting up fences to keep deer away from vegetation and sterilizing a number of deer.
     The other two alternatives involved luring deer at night with bait and then shooting them at close range with high-powered rifles or, if near homes, crossbows.
     Despite public comment largely against the lethal alternatives, the Park Service authorized the killing, and plans to start in December, according to the complaint.
     “The Park Service will kill the deer – with a preference for does – until there are only 70 to 94 remaining,” the plaintiffs say. “Accounting for new births, the Park Service estimates that 296 deer will be killed in the first three years. Most of the killing will occur in the first year, when the Park Service intends to halve the population by killing 157 deer over the ‘over a five-month period.'”
     The 120-year-old park covers 4.69 square miles of trees, fields and a meandering creek in the heart of the District. It is home to an array of wildlife, including approximately 314 deer.
     “While the deer in Rock Creek Park have not rebounded to the levels that exist elsewhere – where densities can exceed 100 or 200 deer per square mile – they are common enough to contribute to the experience of visitors who come to the park to escape the turmoil of the city and to appreciate a small piece of the natural wild,” the complaint states.
     Lead plaintiff Carol Grunewald says the Park Service’s authorization to shoot the deer violates the Rock Creek Park Enabling Act, the Organic Act of the National Park Service, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiffs want the killings enjoined.
     They are represented by Jessica Almy, with Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

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