Perhaps a red line was crossed when they came from the Maryland suburbs and started showing up in Washington, D.C. Now, even in the face of protest, the U.S. government has decided to use force to stop them.
“I’ve seen [them] on Connecticut Avenue in rush hour,” area resident Steve Stern told WTTG-TV, referring to one of Washington’s busier streets.
Washington’s Maryland suburbs are now in the thick of a political controversy with buzzwords echoing some of the biggest divisions in the nation’s capital—guns, contraception, overpopulation, litigation, even feeding the needy.
In this case, the “armed warriors” are getting their orders not from the Pentagon but from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and they’re aiming to thin the growing whitetail deer population (the “them”) in Rock Creek Park, where the National Park Service counts 77 deer per square mile in the park – four times the number it can sustain.
“An overabundant white-tailed deer population has negatively impacted Rock Creek Park,” Rock Creak Park Superintendent Tara Morrison told WTOP Radio in Washington. “Their numbers have grown so large that they’re eating nearly all the tree seedlings and preventing Rock Creek Park’s forests from growing.”
The matter is in no way unique to Maryland. Similar controversies are happening in Long Island, New Yorkm and Solon, Ohio, near Cleveland, where USDA sharpshooters are coming into thin the deer herds.
Animal rights groups are opposing the use of tax dollars to kill animals. Like the left in other political debates, this group is arguing that contraception is the answer.
Citizens in Maryland have sought unsuccessfully to preempt the USDA sharpshooters in U.S. District Court, and argued that birth control salt licks would be a more humane answer. The National Park Service states that birth control would be ineffective now, but would look into using non-lethal options when the population is reduced.
This is the second round of sharpshooting in the park, with a goal of killing 106 deer. As with any strike, the government is not stating what day it will occur, only that it will be between Jan. 2 and March 31 between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and 4 a.m.
And as with federal government initiatives, the first round of sharpshooting in March 2013 got only 20 deer, only about one-third of the goal, largely because the shooting was held up in court, and the shooters had less time than planned.
Critics of the shooting are demanding other options.
“There’s got to be some other options,” area resident Karine Perla told WTTG. “They’re just trying the easy way to get rid of them.”