Deer Culling To Resume At Gettysburg National Military Park

Deer culling at Gettysburg National Military Park will resume in October as officials work to tamp down the herds so vegetation has a better chance to grow.

Culling, by sharpshooters, also will take place at Eisenhower National Historic Site.

In response to an outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease in Adams County, Pennsylvania, last October, the Park Service made immediate changes to its deer management program. The NPS and state staff cooperatively tested all deer taken through the program for the presence of the disease. All deer tested negative for CWD. Once deer had tested negative, venison was distributed to local food banks, including the Adams County South Central Community Action Program and the Maryland Food Bank.

Testing of all deer taken through the program will continue this year. All venison from deer that test negative for the disease will once again be donated to area food banks.

It is important to note that no CWD has been found in wild deer populations in Pennsylvania or at Gettysburg NMP and Eisenhower NHS, a park release noted. While there is no current evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans, this question is an ongoing area of research and the Park Service will take a cautious and careful approach to donation of meat until surveillance testing results indicate a high level of confidence that CWD does not exist in the local deer population.

“We continue to manage white-tailed deer at Gettysburg and Eisenhower parks in order to control the damage they do to historic woodlots and farm fields,” said Superintendent Bob Kirby.

An important purpose of managing the deer population is supporting forest regeneration in historic woodlots that played a role in the fighting of the Battle of Gettysburg. The management programs also provides for the long-term protection, conservation and restoration of native species and cultural landscapes. Hunting is not permitted inside the two parks--only qualified federal employees take part in the efforts to reduce the herd.

In 1995, an Environmental Impact Statement described and considered a variety of options for meeting park objectives for deer management, including public hunting, relocation, and the use of sterilization and contraception. Hundreds of people participated in the public review of the EIS and many commented on it in writing. The NPS decided to reduce the number of deer in the parks through shooting.

The deer management program will continue through the end of March, and continue each year as necessary. A deer reduction community safety committee is consulted on matters of public safety related to the program.

In addition to monitoring the deer population each spring, the park does long-term forest monitoring to help assess the program and set deer management goals.

Comments

The National Parks could address & mitigate their looming problems with run-of-the-mill society across North America, by carefully searching for & developing opportunities to conduct more special public hunts. These should often become (in time) standing, generalized 'hunting seasons'.

The public does support Parks, but the NPS has come excessively under the sway of a special strain of Romantic environmentalism. We don't need to chase the wild-eyed romantics into the wilderness, but in a society that prioritizes Democracy & Human Rights, the views & preferences of the dominant currents in our culture must be better accommodate. Without such a shift, the NPS will continue to drift out of the lane of traffic, and toward the ditch ... which has been a glaring trend for some time now, with other drivers on the road honking & yelling & waving their arms.

There is a real "management" need & role, for special & standing hunts, in the Parks. Damage is occurring, and problems are festering, due to an inappropriate knee-jerk resistance to hunting. Actually, this resistance is motivated by & directed at "the hunters", themselves, rather than what they do, simply because they are the political adversary. And that makes the reaction & policy all the worse.

It would be pragmatically easy for our NPS to move to a new policy, because it controls so many properties, in so many far-flung regions of the continent. There are numerous locales, within & around which new hunts would be easy to manage, and well-received. It wouldn't have to start happening, everywhere, or 'full-blown'.

Parks have become too much about the attitudes of a small fragment of the populace, who are afflicted by a nasty & indefensible disdain for the typical citizens, and their views. Meanwhile, both herbivore & carnivore populations across the continent have developed increasingly problematic issues, stemming chiefly from the cessation of hunting (lack of a predator).

It is widely celebrated by the enviro-eco enthusiasts who support current Park bans on hunting, that the reintroduction of the wolf into the greater Yellowstone habitat is a good thing for the prey-herds in that ecosystem. Yet, that human hunters could fill such a role under very fine-grained management is a suggestion that enthusiasts reject, 'violently'.

Not only is there a major opening here for the NPS to improve its relations & stature with the overall citizenry, but furthermore, if they do not begin making a move on wildlife problems that their own policies foster, Congress is likely to make the decision, for them. The States all have excellent, highly professional Fish & Game Departments, which have a long history of effective management experience with carnivore & herbivore populations.

As with 'guns in Parks' - which was handed back to the States - it is widely viewed as 'bizarre', that the NPS cannot address wildlife-issues & concerns that voters & citizens see plainly. The populace has the ear of their elected Representatives in Congress, and without action by the NPS, that is likely to be where the effective decisions will end being made. For the NPS, rather than by them ... as now seen, in the case of firearms.

Ted--How would you manage the thousands of visitors in a place like Gettysburg and still allow hunting? Remember, most national forests don't have many visitors, especially during hunting season. This doesn't look like an easy solution to me. Culling at night seems much more practical.

Rick

It's fair, Rick, to rein me back to Gettysburg. ;)

It is not unusual that small Parks like Gettysburg see portions closed-off to the public, for both short & long periods. Construction, renovation, over-use issues, landscaping and other factors lead to localized closures. Often, these are anticipated far in advance, and notices have been in place. Other times, the context arises unexpectedly, and visitors - often in the thousands - arrive to find what they planned to see, "Closed". It happens; it's not as rare as we'd like, and we try to be big kids about it. It's far from 'unthinkable', and is not beyond our coping ability.

There are well-known & commonly-used Game Management practices employed for situations very much like those pertaining in the Gettysburg Park. The bow & arrow has limited range, and is silent. Drawings or similar mechanisms allow for precise control of how many hunters are active, exactly when, and specifically where. Proficiency-tests are common in these contexts. Both hunters, and Game authorities are familiar with these practices, which they use in public settings comparable to Gettysburg.

At Gettysburg, it appears that pragmatically a few hunters at a time could be admitted to hunt within specific sections of the facility, which are known to be used by the deer. Closures could go into effect in late-afternoon, for a targeted hunt at dusk ... which is very effective.

Hunters, of course, are perfectly capable of hunting at night, if doing the deed at night (after the gates close to the Public, and no one can see it) is deemed essential for PR & PC reasons (which is 'understandable', if less than admirable). Private hunters will have access to exactly the same equipment & means as the professional cullers, and could operate & perform just as well, under the same conditions.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Rick, but we have to institute Laws & Rules, and establish severe Penalties, to prevent ordinary hunters from doing the same thing these cullers are doing at Gettysburg. "Spotlighting" deer was done by torchlight, back in the Paleolithic. ;)

Issues with visitors we can address directly. Bias against hunting & hunters, is different.

Ted--I admit to a bias against hunters and hunting in those areas of the System that are not specifically open to hunting by Congressional direction. I am certainly not opposed to hunting in our national forests, on BLM lands, and on those state lands where it is permitted. Let's keep some of our public lands special.

Rick

I agree, Rick, that biases are normal & healthy ... troublesome though they may be. My own personal misfortune, is to have some at both ends of the rainbow.

Although the small size & heavy visitor-ship of Gettysburg complicate any hunting or culling there .... the reason we have this facility, is not to protect it's Scenic, Wildlife or Nature values. Those are not what this place is about.

Gettysburg is of course a blood-soaked battlefield - formally, a Military Park - where men fought with firearms and died in the 10s of thousands. What is "special" about this place, is indeed closely tied to hunters and those skilled with guns and is quite apart from & lacking in the Nature-values that motivate & justify others units of the Park system.

Gettysburg is really far more about & and a recognition of citizens who Keep & Bear Arms, than it is about those who chose not to exercise this Right.

Ted

Culling is the same as hunting - the intent, method, and end result is the same. I suppose the objection here is about who is allowed to do it, rather than the actual doing. The benefit of having (what are essentially) professionals do it is that only what is needed is culled and there is a lesser chance of negative outcomes. If there is need for "special hunts," the park service seems, at this time, to be meeting that need. It may not be in the manner you wish, but the end result is the same.

Personally, I don't see a bias against hunters. Even here, in the crowded Mid-Atlantic, there are hundreds of hunting opportunities on public land, both state and federal (Assateague National Seashore, George Washington National Forest, Caledonia State Park, just to name some examples). It doesn't need to be allowed everywhere and to state that its dis-allowance in one area is proof of a bias against hunters is ridiculous.

What bothers me the most is hoe the NPS by default uses the USDA to do thier sharpshooting. The USDA Widlife services is in direct competition with private business. This shouldn't be. There are plenty of trained, certified, reputable businesses within Pennsylvania that offer Deer management and sharpshooting services. The opportunity should be given to them first through a bidding process. This spurs economy by giving small businesses in Pennsylvania some work, therefore, providing employment through these small businesses. Instead, the Feds are using our tax money to take away jobs.

This is happeneing over and over again throughout the US, not just in Pa. by the USDA Wildlife Services. They can out bid private businesses because they are funded by tax dollars...yet they still charge for thier services.

dahkota on September 23, 2013 - 7:03am concluded:

[Hunting] doesn't need to be allowed everywhere and to state that its dis-allowance in one area is proof of a bias against hunters is ridiculous.

That's what they said about the ban on guns in Parks. 'You don't need a gun in the Park. It's safe. You don't need to have a gun everywhere'. But that's a weak & fallacious argument.

In the case of guns, the reality that laid that argument low, was the US Constitution, and the 2nd Amendment.

In the case of hunting, the problem-reality is that it is the States who "own" the wildlife/game, and are the managing authority. Not the Fed.

There are indeed some places where we can't take guns. But the Fed had to make a good case for these variances. So it is with game-populations. In some cases, the facts will support a Federal ban, over what is basically a States matter.

But so far, all we have is an "arbitrary" ban or suspension of hunting. Same as it used to be with arms in Parks. The Fed needs to make an actual legal case for variances. Like with guns, we expect there will be a few specific spots where their interest supersedes the States' rightful claim ... but like with guns, it won't be the blanket, across-the-board policy that they're 'getting away with', currently.

Ted

theschwarz1 on September 23, 2013 - 8:10am observed:

The USDA Widlife services is in direct competition with private business. This shouldn't be. There are plenty of trained, certified, reputable businesses within Pennsylvania that offer Deer management and sharpshooting services.

As you note further into the comment, this has been a widespread problem, with government services horning in on functional & effective businesses. This problem has been 'called out', for quite a few years now, and in a lot of cases the improper government competition has had to cease.

This is obviously one of those cases, at Gettysburg. We did see, that they considered private hunting, but it was rejected. Presumably, bidding the job out also fell under the same process, and again was given a look, and dismissed.

The USDA does a serious pile of pest-eradication. Some of it no doubt ought to be privatized. But they do have a long history ... killing something 100,000 coyotes a year, eg. Now of course, they want to tell us that this is like picking lettuce, that only the solution they favor can deliver the goods.

But basically, there appears to be good evidence that we're on the backside/downhill part of the curve, with this taxpayer-funded competition problem. I'm hopeful that this example of it, too, will soon be dismantled.

Guns and hunting are two separate issues (not all who carry guns are hunters). Additionally, many NPS areas allowed hunting before the change in gun laws (about 70 ). And, to be exact, the law to allow firearms in National Parks was to "protect americans from violent crime" and had no relation to hunting nor did it change any hunting laws.

I don't understand your statement re: "it is the States who "own" the wildlife/game, and are the managing authority." Could you please explain?

"I don't understand your statement re: "it is the States who "own" the wildlife/game, and are the managing authority." Could you please explain?"

Yes ... there is a formal/legal way to cite or reference this, but I have to leave soon and will just explain informally, for now.

Generally, in the US, as we know, powers & authority not specifically vested in the Federal government, belong to the States, automatically. Whatever it is. If it's not spelled out as belonging to the Fed, it belongs to the State. Basic principle.

Confusion arises sometimes, when folks accidentally hit & kill a deer on the road, or shoot a predator that is a danger. They sometimes try to 'do the right thing', once they have a carcass on their hands ... essentially acting like it's theirs. Rangers & state authorities then shake their head, and explain; "No, all the animals belong to the State, until one is duly conveyed to you, like when you hunt with a license & tag. Until the State says it's yours, it's the State's."

Taking a deer home, that you hit on the road, is like hitting a big aluminum road-sign, busting it off .... and then shrugging and loading it in the back of the truck & taking it home to salvage. Nope. Broken or dead - it's still State Property.

All those deer in Pennsylvania, belong to Pennsylvania. And they also possess or hold or own the official, legal authority to Manage and Regulate game, throughout the State. Just as the State owns & holds other resources, and powers.