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Public Debates Lethal and Non-Lethal Management of Rock Creek Deer

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It was standing-room-only at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center, as the National Park Service invited public comments on the Park's burgeoning deer population. The Park Service has proposed several strategies for lessening the deer's adverse impact on forest regeneration. Park Superintendant Adrienne Coleman was going to kick off the meeting with a mix-and-mingle between Park staff and the roughly 130 attendees.

"But you know, you guys don't look like you want an open house," she said.

The audience agreed.

The Park Service's deer-management plans inspired comments from nearly half the audience, many of whom have lived near the Park for years - like Mary Clark.

"Bambi has to go," Clark says. "I only came tonight because I was afraid there wasn't gonna be anybody here that would say it!"

But many echoed Clark's support of lethal culling methods, such as sharpshooting and euthanasia.

William Stone has lived a block from the Park for over a decade.

"We walk daily with our dog there, our kids," Stone says. "You walk around and there's no new growth. No new trees, no plantings.

But some people weren't concerned about the Park's plantings.

Marja Snyder favors lethal strategies, but other gardeners disagreed.

"I want, by the way, to absolve the Park Service for responsibility in my yard," says Don Swenholt.

Don Swenholt backs non-lethal methods, like injecting does with contraceptives. Several animal-rights groups seconded this motion at the meeting, including Friends of Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Humane Society. Despite the debate, it appeared the crowd did agree on one thing. No one voiced support for the Park Service's first option: doing nothing.

Rebecca Sheir reports...

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