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Park Service kills deer for study

August 28, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Five deer were shot on Antietam National Battlefield land Monday night as the National Park Service prepares a white-tailed deer management study, the park's superintendent said Tuesday.

Park Service officials haven't decided whether to kill deer to thin the population, Superintendent John Howard said.

National Environmental Policy Act requirements, including autopsies of the five deer, must be completed before officials can decide if the park has too many deer and if so, how to address that, Howard said.

The first part of forming a deer management study is to autopsy some deer to evaluate the herd's health, Howard said.

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Howard said he doesn't anticipate finding the herd diseased. Tests to be conducted include one for chronic wasting disease, Howard said. That disease has struck free-ranging deer populations in the Midwest and Southwest, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On Monday night, three does and two bucks were killed, Howard said. Wildlife officials did not shoot fawns or yearlings and did not shoot any adults that had young deer near them, he said.

The park service contracted the Southeast Wildlife Center to shoot and autopsy five deer each at Antietam, Monocacy National Battlefield and Catoctin Mountain Park. The center is affiliated with the University of Georgia.

Wildlife officials tried to stay away from Antietam's tour roads Monday night. The deer were shot on the southern portion of battlefield land, probably south of Md. 34, he said.

Wildlife officials started killing deer at Monocacy National Battlefield on Monday night and were to finish Tuesday, Howard said.

Five deer were expected to be killed at Catoctin Mountain Park on Tuesday night, Howard said.

The park service will hold public information meetings about deer management in October at Antietam's visitor's center and in Frederick, Md., Howard said.

The deer population is a concern for many people, including farmers and landowners, Howard said.

"If you get too many, they go through our fields and they'll eat the crops," Howard said. That reduces how much corn can be sold by farmers who lease battlefield land.

Howard said the white-tailed deer population has never been thinned at Antietam, Monocacy or Catoctin.

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