English: A white-tailed deer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It has set off a heated debate, a federal lawsuit, and enough documents to fill a couple of phone books.
But for the third consecutive year, Valley Forge National Historical Park is proceeding with a deer-culling program designed to thin the herd and encourage new plant growth in the park.
And officials at the famed Revolutionary War site say it is working.
The deer population has long been a bane of Valley Forge, they say. Before the culling began, the park counted 291 deer per square mile. A “sustainable” population would be closer to 35 per square mile, said Deirdre Gibson, the park’s chief of resources.
The deer population in Valley Forge Park was cut in half (approximately) when the herd was reduced by sharpshooters starting in November. Estimates put the deer herd in the park at 1,277 animals. The eventual goal is the have less than 200 deer in the park.
Despite lawsuits from animal rights activists, the culling was carried out over sixteen nights starting in November 2010. The overabundance of deer was damaging the forest growth and crowding out other animal species in the park.