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.
A controlled hunt will be conducted in the next six months by the Park Service staff at Gettysburg Battlefield and the Eisenhower National Historic Site to thin the deer herd by about 150 animals. The population spiked recently to 80 animals per square mile. The goal is 25 animals per square mile.
The hunt will be conducted at night and in areas closed to the public. The venison will be donated to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in Harrisburg. A portion of that will return to Adams County. Last year 17,000 pounds of venison was donated to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
An overabundance in the deer population can prevent forest regeneration and stress the ecosystem. They cause damage to private property, farms, fields and can interfere with overall park management.