by Anai Rhoads
AnaiRhoads.org -- There has been a battle going on for
decades over whether or not to diminish certain animal
populations through hunting. Whether they are vaunting birth
control methods, snares or traps, or the direct shooting of
free-living animals, governments and pro-hunting groups attempt
to push aside the obvious problem: human encroachment.
The human population has doubled since the 1970s, and this
influx of bodies has led to more homes, malls and highways being
constructed on land where animals once lived. This encroachment
has pushed, isolated, and even starved animals as they try to
compete for space and food.
A prime example would be the situation taking place at
Pennsylvania's Valley Forge National Historical Park, where, as
Friends of Animals (FoA) reports, the federal government wants
to bring sharpshooters to kill White-tailed deer. Under a hefty
federal proposal, nearly 80 percent of an estimated 1,023, deer
will be killed. As the deer raise their young, more are to be
shot, so park officials intend to kill some 1,300 deer over the
next four years. It all boils down to the officials wanting to
shoot these deer for the next four winter seasons, beginning
this season, until they have reached their quota -- or see
forest regeneration. This is said to be no easy trick when the
state keeps widening roadways, such as the nearby Pennsylvania
What prompted the call for violence in this oasis in the
middle of suburban sprawl? Wealthy residents from the
northeastern Chester and southwestern Montgomery counties
complained that the deer were roaming into their gardens and
feeding on their ornamental plants and shrubs. This sparked an
interest in introducing hunting of these animals along the
five-mile stretch of the park. Regular hunting isn't easy to
bring in, however, under rules that govern the national park; so
they are talking about bringing in people hired through the
federal agriculture department to do the job. This way, the
government frames their intrusions as management rather than
Native forest plants are the red herring in this issue. We
humans cannot justify taking over an area that is home to these
animals. We simply cannot keep building where animals are
confined ever further, then shift the blame onto them.
The deer of Valley Forge have reduced their numbers on their
own accord over the past five years. Even where deer are
numerous, it's an odd argument that insists humans need to be
predators while all along we're treating the real predators as
nuisance animals. Predators are vital to sustaining an
ecological environment. For example, the war on the coyotes in
Pennsylvania, where they can be hunted down all year, has
shifted the natural order. In addition to bringing in the
weapons, the National Park Service seeks to implement a
contraception program, which may lead to the collapse of what's
left of the park's White-tailed deer population.
The agency claims its birth control plan would help prevent
the deer from over-populating. Yet putting White-tailed deer -
or any wild animal - on birth control is an ethically
questionable interference with the animals' own natures. Lack of
access to food and water, or even moderate stress, can throw an
animal's fertility cycle into a condition called anovulation,
where ovulation ceases until the right conditions are met. There
are other animals with this same capability, including humans.
Generally, animals breed according to what their environment
allows, and don’t need humans to interfere with their fertility.
The perpetually shy White-tailed deer usually come into heat
in November for a short 24-hour period. If conception hasn't
taken place, a doe will go into heat again 28 days later. Mating
occurs only from October to December - which means the
sharp-shooters will be killing pregnant deer, in addition to
others, for years. The contraception is to take place in later
years, according to the plan, if the officials find a substance
with which they are comfortable.
The National Park Service has written out four basic
alternatives to deal with the White-tailed deer in Valley Forge,
Alternative A - Involves taking no action. This includes no
lethal force and no contraception to minimize the population.
Biologists will continue to test for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
when a deceased deer is discovered. Alternative A is the most
favored by FoA, because it eliminates the unnatural domination
over these animals.
Alternative B - This alternative would introduce a
combination of control activities, involving contraception and
Alternative C - Per square mile, 31-35 deer would be killed
or captured and adjustments would be made based on forest
Alternative D - The Park Service is in favor this
alternative, where sharpshooting and possibly contraception
would be used. In addition, "active lethal surveillance for CWD"
has been added. This means some deer will be killed and tested
for Chronic Wasting Disease, despite no known cases of this
disease in the state. The park officials are essentially using
CWD as an excuse based on positive cases seen in New York and
A Pattern of Control
This issue is also going on in Washington D.C.'s Rock Creek
Park where the Park Service has laid out a plan that mirrors
that of Valley Forge, further suggesting that the stated reasons
behind the removal of these deer were result-oriented, and not
genuine, location-specific answers.
These proposed killings are sponsored solely by your tax
dollars. The recurring annual costs for sharpshooting the deer
will range from $112,363 to $176,817. For the birth control
plan, it will cost the taxpayer anywhere from $108,363 to
$194,517 annually. In contrast, Alternative A -- maintaining a
perfectly acceptable status quo in the park -- could range from
$14,828 to $32,567 depending on any positive CWD results. As
there are no known cases in the state, the actual cost increase
over what we pay now is likely to be zero. One has to question
if the tax burden the government is proposing makes any sense.
In addition, the opportunities for human-to-human accidents
will greatly increase when these sharpshooters are let loose.
There are a number of homes in close proximity to this area, and
there are numerous busy roadways winding through the park.
Children might witness these cruel acts as well.
In short, if residents don't want the deer to inhabit their
space, then they need to stop invading theirs. Killing and
"maintaining" a population of deer to satisfy the whims and
wants of a few resident complainers is unacceptable.
What You Can Do
Contact your local representatives both in Washington, D.C.
and Pennsylvania and express your concerns regarding these
actions against the White-tailed deer. Send a copy of what you
write to Friends of Animals' legal director, Lee Hall, at
The Honorable Arlen Specter
United States Senate
711 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3802
DC Phone: (202) 224-4254
Fax: (202) 228-1229
The Honorable Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senate
393 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3804
DC Phone (202) 224-6324
Fax: (202) 228-0604
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Kristina Heister, Natural Resource Manager
(610)783-0252 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Valley Forge National Historical Park Fax: (610)783-1060
Governor Edward G. Rendell
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120
Phone: (717) 787-2500
Fax: (717) 772-8284
Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D - At Large)
DC Phone: (202) 225-8050
Fax: (202) 225-3002
Executive Office of the Mayor, Mayor Fenty
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 316
Washington, DC 20004
Contact Form or dial 311.
Superintendent Rock Creek Park
3545 Williamsburg Lane, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Headquarters: (202) 895-6000
Copyright © 2009 AnaiRhoads.org - republished by permission.
Thank you for everything you do for animals!