$1.8 million will go to sharpshooters to cull deer on Civil War battlefields.
According to Smithsonian.com, the National Parks service is planning to spend nearly $1.8 million in order to have professional hunters cull deer herds on three Civil War Battlefields in Virginia and Maryland: Manassas, Antietam, and Monocacy.
Since hunting is prohibited on National Parks, including these battlefields, the white-tailed deer population has grown out of control. It’s estimated that the population density of deer on these battlefields has grown to over 130 deer per square mile, which is far in excess of the normal density of 20 per square mile.
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With a population density that high, the deer population will quickly overwhelm the ability of their habitat to support them. This will lead to over-browsing of their food sources, make conditions ripe for disease, and dramatically increase the occurrences of negative interactions with people (such as getting hit by cars and eating people’s gardens).
In order to prevent this, the National Park Service is proposing paying sharpshooters to cull up to 2,800 deer on the three battlefields over the next few years. However, many hunters in the area are stating that this is a waste of money and unnecessary considering that there are hundreds who would gladly pay money for the opportunity to hunt the battlefields.
Since the deer population is so high, there are very likely some outstanding old bucks hiding out on the battlefields in addition to literally thousands of does. This sort of opportunity would appeal to a wide range of trophy as well as meat hunters who would gladly shell out some money to buy a permit to hunt the battlefields.
I’m sure that the National Park Service is worried that allowing hunters from the general population to hunt on the battlefields would be a safety hazard, which is a legitimate concern since the battlefields are not that large. However, there are some steps that they could take to mitigate the risk. For instance, the park service could sell a limited number of permits to hunt on the battlefields (by a special draw if necessary), close the battlefields to the general public for a few days during the fall that are designated for hunting, require that hunters hunt from designated stands with safe fields of fire, or require that the hunters only use archery equipment, a muzzleloader, or a shotgun.
By taking just a few steps to diminish the risks associated with it, the National Park Service could very likely achieve their goal of culling the deer herds on the battlefields without spending anywhere near $1.8 million. At the very least, opening the battlefields to hunters would reduce the cost that the National Park Service would incur to reduce the deer population. At best, they might even make money.
How do you think the National Park Service should go about culling the deer population? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.