Catoctin Mountain Park, Antietam and Monocacy national battlefields, Manassas National Battlefield Park, and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and Harpers Ferry national historical parks will conduct deer management operations in 2021 to protect and restore native plants, promote healthy and diverse forests and preserve historic landscapes. Operations will take place at Manassas from approximately Jan. 15 to Feb. 28, 2021, and at all other parks from Feb. 1 to March 31, 2021.
Extensive safety measures will be in place to protect park visitors and neighbors during operations. Under the direction of NPS resource management specialists and in coordination with law enforcement park rangers, highly trained firearms experts experienced in conducting wildlife reduction operations will primarily work at night when the parks are closed to the public in a manner proven safe and effective.
Limited park areas will be temporarily closed while reduction operations are underway. Visitors and area residents are encouraged to check their local park’s website for the most up-to-date information and are reminded to respect posted closures. Hunting is illegal in these Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia national parks.
The NPS will donate all suitable meat from reduction activities to local food banks. Last year, these national parks in Maryland and Virginia (except Harpers Ferry) donated more than 13,400 pounds of venison to local food banks.
All six parks are implementing previously approved white-tailed deer management plans. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park will conduct its first season of deer management, and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park and Manassas National Battlefield Park will conduct their third seasons of deer reduction activities. Antietam National Battlefield and Monocacy National Battlefield will conduct their fifth season of deer reduction activities. Catoctin Mountain Park will continue with the 12th year of its deer management efforts.
Overabundant deer populations damage vegetation and eat nearly all the tree seedlings compromising the ability of forests to sustain themselves. 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.
Deer management has produced positive results at several area national parks. Catoctin Mountain Park has actively worked to reduce deer populations in the park since 2010 and has seen more than an 11-fold increase in seedling density over the past 11 years. Several additional national parks across the country actively manage deer populations including Rock Creek Park (D.C.), Gettysburg National Military Park, Fire Island National Seashore, Valley Forge National Historical Park and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.