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Rock Creek Park Deer Could Be Boon For Food Banks

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Does hunted in Rock Creek Park could be turned into venison to feed the District's hungry.
Markette Smith
Does hunted in Rock Creek Park could be turned into venison to feed the District's hungry.

Vegetation growth in Rock Creek Park is at a stand still, so park rangers have devised a plan to hunt down does -- female deer- and give away their meat. It could mean a boon in venison donations to area food banks.

"There's been a growing deer population in Rock Creek Park for many years now, and it's come to the point that our scientific research is showing conclusively that there's no forest regeneration occurring," says the park's Chief Ranger Nick Bartolomeo. "We will donate the food to a local food bank."

The deer could possibly end up in the freezer at the Springfield Butcher Shop in Virginia, one of the only meat processing locations in the Metro area that works with a non-profit food supplier called Hunters for the Hungry.

"What we do with it and the fact that it doesn't go to waste," says the shop's owner Michael Preast. "It's nice to see something good happen."

After Preast processes a donated deer, Hunters for the Hungry then distributes the venison to the Capital Area Food Bank. The group estimates one deer amounts to approximately 200 servings.

"[We make the venison into] a lot of steaks, roasts, burger, a lot of burger," explains Preast.

Rock Creek Park's plan to reduce the deer population is expected to be approved within the next 30 days. Bartolomeo says their goal is to extract 177 deer in the first year, and then it will decline after that until the forest begins to regenerate.

But Bartolomeo stresses that they do not plan to eradicate the creatures altogether: "The deer population will be here to stay for many generations," he says.

The U.S. Park Service must approve the plan before it can be implemented.


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