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Valley Forge Park sets deer shoots after year's delay

October 05, 2010 | Deer / Hunting & Wildlife Management

UPDATE: FRIENDS OF ANIMALS AND CARE WILL HOLD A DEMONSTRATION AT THE PARK THIS SATURDAY, 9 October, 2-4 PM.

The permit has been approved for our group by the Park administration and the Superintendent has signed it.

Meet us in the parking lot near the bicycle rentals and restrooms. That is officially the First Amendment Zone and on Park maps it is identified as:

"Lower Welcome Center Parking Lot."

Look for the bright blue Friends of Animals banner.

IMPORTANT: Watch this space for further updates regarding forthcoming demonstrations and public education in the National Park as well as legal restraints filed for by Friends of Animals in this case.

Inquirer article follows.

Philly.com

By Jeff Gammage
Inquirer Staff Writer

Officials at Valley Forge National Historical Park say deer will be shot there starting next month, ending a yearlong delay and commencing a controversial plan to dramatically thin the herd.

An animal-rights group responded to Monday's announcement with an immediate pledge to demonstrate at the park. And an attorney said he might seek a restraining order to try to stop the shooting. Read more.

Comments

Katia, Most of the fields are mowed only once per year. The one you mention was mowed late this fall. Tony, No the park is not deforested, but it will be if nothing is done. There are trees, but there are no young trees in the understory to take their place when the current trees die. the young seedling and sapling trees are all eaten by the deer.

No, actually if you drive along 252, which I do 4 times a day, you will see that it is the entire hillside, where deer usually graze, not just the edges. I can certainly understand the mowing the edges for visibility reasons. What is the other 90 percent of their diet comprised of?

They are not mowing all of the grass, I think that is obvious. They mow the edges, a lot less than they did when it was a state park. And about the deer - grasses comprise less than 10% of their diet, so more grass is not the answer to the deer congestion issue. By any count there are just too many deer and the park has made a careful and well considered decision to cull the herd.

Why are they mowing the grassy areas, further reducing the available food for the deer?

Ginger, it seems to me you want it both ways. You concur with the view that the vast majority of deer at Valley Forge should be overwhelmed with firepower and dragged out of the Park, the survivors to be placed on a regime of pharmaceutical control, because, well, that’s all OK, because after all it’s not a full ecosystem like the West. When it comes to the vegetation you claim to want to protect, then the Park should be treated as a natural ecosystem. That’s what the Park officials are arguing, and it strikes me as contradictory, result-oriented arguing. What you mean by being sorry it has got to this point is not clear to me. I visit the Park often. The deer aren’t taking over the bathrooms and gift shops. They enjoy the cover of trees; and the young ones, looking calm and healthy, occasionally watch the human passers-by. As reported by Jeff Gammage in the Inquirer (15 Feb. 2009), a Park environmental impact study showed that the number of deer in the Park peaked at in 2003 -- at a total of 1398. The reported number in 2009 was 1023. What “point” has it reached, then? The point of gradually decreasing over recent years to level off at just over a thousand individuals. The Park is beautiful and expansive, and the deer are well-adjusted and appear content. Presumably you bring up CWD to ring the same alarm bells that the Park directors do. But you obviously know there is no CWD in the state. Creating a sudden vacuum wouldn't be the common-sense approach to fostering the good health of these deer. If anything, the idea of letting natural predation keep the balance in the Park over time would best ensure the continued good health of the Park’s fauna.

Lee, you say "Now, can we fairly ascribe any past and present danger to the foliage to an “overabundance of deer”?" And to that I say, yes. Let me first distinguish between "deer" and the ecologically oppressive population of deer that currently live in the park. This park is small and has no natural open space that buffers it from developed/human areas. It is what it is size wise and it has no room to grow and neither does the deer herd and yet it does. VFNHP is not like the very large parks of the west where animals have a more natural ecosystem of which to be a part. Contiguous with some of these large parks are other open lands both Federal and private. The folks who support the culling of the deer I am going to guess, because I am one of them, would rather not have to do it, but long term scientific studies say that this is the most humane and reasonable solution. I am sorry it has gotten to this point, perhaps had this been foreseen, and I don't know if it could have been, the solution might have been different. Another thing to consider, is that this overpopulation weakens the herd and I have concerns that it will not be too far into the future that our deer will be found to be victims of CWD (Chronic wasting disease) a form of spongiform encephalopathy. Herds of white tailed deer in Wyoming are infected as well as herds in New York State. I wan the park and the deer to be healthy - I do not want the deer to be gone.

Well said Lee! If we spent the 2 million contributing to more eco-practices, it would be a worthwhile investment. What is the real reason behind this madness? The recent million dollar renovations, new tree plantings, building and parking areas? How to explain to our children that the deer are "gone", from the very park that SELLS postcards of them in their gift shop? Leave the deer alone!

Ginger: In 1777 – 1778, George Washington’s Continental Army camped on what would become Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. It was located on an agricultural and industrial landscape. In order “[t]o establish and sustain the camp, every tree within a several-mile radius was cut and used for hut construction and earthworks or burned as fuel.” Washington chose this site specifically because the mostly treeless terrain offered strategic views all the way to Philadelphia. That is the history of the Park and its foliage (or, in certain areas, the lack of it). Over the next century, the authentic historical setting deteriorated through the addition of a chapel, museum, arch, and ornamental plantings. The existing agricultural landscape, with its barns and other agriculture buildings, fences, and farm lanes, was obliterated to conform to ideas of subtle grandeur. Now, can we fairly ascribe any past and present danger to the foliage to an "overabundance of deer"? No one here wants to see foliage wrecked. But if one would speak up for the trees and vegetation, one cannot single out the effects of the Park's community of deer. Limiting construction in Chester and Montgomery Counties, or opposing the widening of the Penn Turnpike, or challenging the use of cars in the park with the oil and exhaust they introduce would make more sense in that regard. Have you thought about the importance of improving the SEPTA system so as to spare green spaces? Wouldn't it make sense to do so? All of these issues are connected, and those of us who genuinely care about vegetation do not regard the Park in a vacuum. We are keenly aware of the value of the Park ecology. But to begrudge the deer their natural tendency to eat the very food nature provides for them is a misplaced ecological concern. Particularly so when the balance of the ecology would be better advanced by letting nature work than by setting out to dominate and destroy it.

Why is it no one seems to understand the ecological damage the over abundance of deer in VFNHP are doing? There are simply too many deer for the land in the park to sustain without the park giving up its life as a viable ecosystem. You all seem to speak only for the deer. Well, I am here to speak for the trees and the rest of the vegetation. The deer are eating all of the young saplings and many of the trees in the park are old and will soon die. What will replace them? The whole business is unfortunate, I don't want to see anyone in a car killed by hitting a deer, nor do I want an animal to suffer and die that way. I respect all life and there needs to be a balance and we have lost that at the park. Without human pressure nature will balance herself, but here we have human presence and pressure, that is just the fact. Culling the deer using the skills of professionals is unfortunately the only answer under the present conditions.

KTB: It's apparent that you want hunters in Valley Forge Park. But this is a national historical park, no place for guns (not to suggest that guns are a pleasantry anywhere). No one should be letting pets roam unobserved in the Park. If you are with your pet there will be no trouble. Coyotes are naturally shy of humans and will confine their activity to times and places that avoid conflict. Much more sensible than some of the humans we are hearing from.

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