Thursday, July 14, 2016
Valley Forge has a problem with deer. Well, it actually has two problems with deer: the first problem is that there are too many deer and the second problem is that people come to poach the deer because they are easy pickings. Valley Forge is doing its best to combat both of these problems, and sometimes in unique ways.
For the issue of too many deer, Valley Forge has been working to cull the deer herd for the past 6 years. Every winter they bring in a group of sharp-shooters that bait certain areas and go out with law enforcement rangers to kill the deer that come to the bait. This has caused the herd to go from over 1,200 deer to about 150 in the 5 square mile park. At times, herds of up to 90 deer could be seen roaming the park, but the largest herd I've seen has been 6 deer. One interesting thing I learned from Natural Resources is that if even one deer gets away from the baited area that area can no longer be used because no deer will go back to that space.
The issue of poaching is an interesting matter. Not only is it illegal to hunt in Valley Forge, it puts visitors at risk. The way Valley Forge is combating this problem is unique, at least to me. Valley Forge just got a mechanical deer that can be set up and monitored for poaching activities. The deer is a hide over rebar, and the head turns and the tail can twitch/wag via a remote that the rangers control. We demoed this deer at the 4th of July celebration, along with a contest to name the deer. I personally liked the name Freedom, but we’ll see what wins out in the end.
One question I get somewhat frequently when the topic of the deer come up is “Why don’t you just let the poachers get rid of the deer problem?” The poachers aren’t allowed to hunt on Valley Forge land – that’s why they’re poachers and not hunters. Opening up the park at any time to hunters would cause several issues such as how to select who gets to come out, how to ensure the hunters are knowledgeable, and the issue of not being able to reuse a baited area if even one deer escapes could cause problems if the hunters aren’t top notch. As I said above, it is also a safety issue to the visitors.
Overall, interesting methods are being employed to combat this problem that is deer to Valley Forge. They definitely aren’t passing the buck with the issue, and they are willing to shell out the doe for whatever they need to do. Okay, enough, I’m not really fawn of deer puns. But Valley Forge is doing its best to help maintain the park, even if it seems like one of the problems is a solution to the other problem.