Thinning the Valley Forge herd

April 20, 2009 4:53:03 PM PDT
The British never invaded, but the deer have taken over the park.They're gobbling everything in sight and bounding across busy roadways. And with a new crop of fawns next month, there will be even more.

"About 1200 and that's about 200 per square mile," said Deidre Gibson of Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Ideally, they should number about one fifth of that number. The park service says they are destroying the woodlands and meadows, grazing on every new sprout that emerges.

The park has been formulating a deer management plan for the past three years. They looked at four options and have decided on option "D".

"Option 'D' will involve sharp shooting to reduce the population to about 30 deer per square mile."

That means 80-percent of the deer will be eliminated starting next winter. It's a plan that horrifies animal rights groups. They say the park is not virgin forest and the deer population is self-regulating.

"For over at least the last 3 years the population of deer in Valley Forge State Park has been decreasing and stabilizing," said Lee Hall of Friends of Animals.

The park service is mostly concerned with the environmental impact of the deer. But, motorists worry about another kind of impact, about 100 collisions with deer a year inside the park boundaries.

"Obviously there's so many of them that they're crossing the road quite often so I worry about that a lot," said Matt Kartstetter.

The deer have become oblivious to traffic, often grazing right alongside busy roads like route 23. They freely dart across the roadways and are near invisible at night. Fewer deer may make the park safer and environmentally sound, but the animal rights groups say they will go to court to stop the sharpshooters.

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