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NPS sets deer population management efforts Feb. 3-March 31 at Manassas Battlefield

Manassas National Battlefield Park plans to implement its second year of “deer management” to protect and restore native plants, promote healthy and diverse forests and protect historic landscapes. The operations window is Feb. 3 through March 31, 2020, after dark when the park is closed.

Extensive safety measures will be in place during operations, at night when the park is closed. Biologists, who are also highly trained firearms experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will work under the direction of National Park Service (NPS) natural resource management specialists and in coordination with park law enforcement rangers to conduct reduction actions safely and effectively, the NPS said in a news release.

According to the NPS news release, all suitable venison will be donated to local food banks. Last year, news rekease said, the park was able to donate 7,230 pounds of venison to Tree of Life Food Pantry, which is located in Loudoun County.

According to the news release, “Overabundant deer populations damage plants and eat nearly all the tree seedlings, compromising the ability of forests to sustain themselves,” which prevents forest regeneration and destroys smaller trees and shrubs, which are :critical habitat for native birds and other wildlife. Extensive damage from deer at Manassas National Battlefield Park has also adversely impacted the park’s historic landscape, the news releasse stated.

Prompted by a marked decline in forest regeneration, Manassas National Battlefield Park initiated a public process to create a plan which was finalized in 2014 to reduce the deer population “to a level that will support long-term protection and restoration of native plants and promote a healthy and diverse forest.” The NPS said it “will continue to monitor how well plants are growing with fewer deer, and the findings will help inform future deer management actions.”

According to the NPS news release, deer “management has produced positive results at several area national parks.” Noted were Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania and Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland. ?Catoctin has actively worked to reduce deer populations in the park since 2010 and has seen more than a 11-fold increase in seedling density,” according top the NPS news release.

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