Plaintiffs File Court Papers to Save the Rock Creek Park Deer

On Friday, we filed our opening brief on behalf of In Defense of Animals and five individuals, arguing that the National Park Service’s plan to kill native white-tailed deer in Rock Creek Park violates the National Environmental Policy Act and the statute that created the Park.


An urban oasis in the nation’s capital, Rock Creek Park has never before allowed any wildlife to be killed within the Park. The National Park Service had planned to kill half of the deer this winter but halted its plans after we filed suit in October.
The Park Service’s own data show that there are is no overpopulation of deer – there are only about 300 deer in the entire Park, they are in good biological condition and are certainly not starving. In other places with too many deer, there is a “browse line” where the deer have eaten all the foliage they can reach, leaving abundant leaves on bushes and trees too tall for the deer to reach with bare branches below. But the Park Service acknowledges that there is “no visible browse line” in Rock Creek Park.

Plaintiffs believe that even if there were a deer overpopulation problem – which simply does not exist – there are far more humane ways to deal with this problem, such as using fertility control which has been successfully used in other national parks to control wildlife populations.
But instead of using humane reproductive controls that would protect the wildlife and the serenity of the Park, the National Park Service decided to use taxpayer dollars to kill the deer by luring them with apples and carrots to clearings where they will be shot at close range or killed by barbaric means, such as bleeding to death.  As explained in our brief, this approach violates both the statute that created the Park in 1890, which requires that the animal life there be preserved as much as possible, and the National Environmental Policy Act, because the Park Service failed to take into account important environmental impacts that will result from killing the deer, including completely changing the overall character of this peaceful place of tranquility to a nightly killing field.
Resolution of the lawsuit is necessary to stop the killing of the deer for good. The judge is holding a hearing on March 4, 2013.
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