Rock Creek Park deer hunt set to begin

The hunt to control the white-tailed deer population in Rock Creek Park will soon get underway.

Three years worth of pictures from infrared cameras showed up to 100 deer living in a square mile of Rock Creek Stream Valley Park.

The Montgomery County Parks Department will be using highly trained park police officers to shoot and kill between 10 and 25 deer. Notices have been posted alerting others of the plan.

The sharpshooters will be working at night, beginning sometime next week.

Ryan Butler, a senior natural resource specialist with Montgomery County, said the hunt is the most effective way to control the deer population. He added complaints from the neighborhood along Jones Mill Road have gone up.

Butler explained, "They can destroy every plant up to about five feet in height."

They can also become a hazard on the road, he added.

When the county asked for the public's input, Butler said, 70 percent of people were okay with lethal removal of the animals.

Roy Grossnick is one of those supporters. He said the deer come up to the front of his home and eat his vegetation.

"If they're coming up that far into an area that could be dangerous...there isn't adequate vegetation to support the population because it has expanded so much," Grossnick said.

When Katherine Strong first moved to the neighborhood in the late 90s, she was adamant about not killing the deer. But over time, she has seen a change in attitude.

"I think the idea that there is no natural predators for these deers that I'm aware of and that the herd may need to be thinned again has gained a lot of traction in this area," Strong said.

The deer killed in the operation will be taken to a butcher and then donated to the Capital Area Food Bank.

PETA issued a statement on the controlled hunt, writing, in part:

"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..."