Valley Forge Safe

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White-tailed Deer Management Plan/EIS for Valley Forge National Historical Park

Park managers say there have been “unacceptable changes in the forest community” over the past 27 years.  They cite 6-15% of native plants are gone and the forest is not generating saplings.  A component of the Park’s plan to replace the native plants and add 8,000 conifer seedlings calls for hiring sharpshooters to kill 80% of the deer herd to prevent them from nibbling on new growth.  The projected cost is $3 million!


One look at the lush greenery and healthy trees of Valley Forge Park can't help but cast doubt upon the NPS' assertion about the existing crisis requiring a drastic solution.  In addition to the danger posed to people, sharpshooting, capturing and euthanizing deer is inhumane.

Forests are opportunistic; the strongest species survive. It's doubtful killing deer would effect the natural evolution of the Park's woodlands.  Other factors, like the closed forest canopy, may pose a more significant effect to the lack of new growth.

Sharpshooting is dangerous especially so close to populated residential areas.  No one can protect against stray bullets.  Tens of thousands of motor vehicles use Rts 422, 252, and 23 both day and night.  All three roads cross the Park property.  What's more, NPS admits sharpshooting will cause more deer/vehicle collisions (DVCs).  Insurance companies, like Erie Insurance, and Penndot concur shooting at deer makes them flee across roads risking collisions with motor vehicles. 

Deer can run up to 35 mph (Bauer, “Whitetails”, Voyageur Press) and cross roads in the Park as well as major highways very quickly.  Nationally, hundreds of people are killed and thousands injured every year in DVCs.  Who will pay the medical bills? Who will compensate or console families for loss of income or loved ones?


The National Park Service Organic Act requires NPS to protect wildlife in the Parks.  The only exception are animals which attack people (like grizzly bears in Yellowstone). Those can be destroyed.

Park managers cannot promote one species (plants) at the expense of another (wildlife) especially when their plan (sharpshooting) endangers people.  Safe means to protect saplings from browsing, such as Plantra tubes, are available.

Killing wildlife is not an effective management tool because of the "Rebound Effect." This is simply the natural control of herd size that Mother Nature provides.  Moving deer to other locations is another option. PA farmers are already well familiar with this method.  Fertility control, such as PZP and others, has been used successfully for 25 years to reduce and maintain wildlife populations.  The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) approved GonaCon for this purpose.  It has an 80-100% efficacy rate for 5 years following a single dose. This should be sufficient because life expectancy of deer in suburban areas is only  5 years.  The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) offered to set up a fertility control program at Valley Forge in 2002 and again in 2009.  Park managers rebuffed their offers.


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