DMV National Parks donate 11,000 lbs of venison to families in need

Maryland

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — National Parks across the DMV area are actively working to reduce the overabundant white-tailed deer population, but the by-product of the reduction program does not go to waste.

Seven National Parks across Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. have donated over 11,000 pounds of venison to local non-profit organizations in an effort to reduce the overabundant population of white-tailed deer in the area.

Antietam National Battlefield 2,240 lbs  Maryland Food Bank 
Catoctin Mountain Park 1,959 lbs HELP Hotline, Thurmont Food Bank, Montgomery County Police Community Engagement 
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park 360 lbs Maryland Food Bank 
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park 690 lbs Maryland Food Bank 
Manassas National Battlefield Park 3,572 lbs Christian Ministry Food Bank 
Monocacy National Battlefield 1,320 lbs Maryland Food Bank 
Rock Creek Park 900 lbs DC Central Kitchen 
Courtesy of National Park Service

Megan Nortrup, Information Sharing Specialist for the National Park Service in the Northern Capital Area, explained the deer population are having a detrimental effect on the native wildlife.

“The deer are damaging forests, historic landscapes. They’re eating a lot of vegetation and native plants,” Nortrup said. “A number of the National Parks are managing the deer population, and reducing it. We work with highly trained firearms experts who come into the parks. We close those areas of the parks, and they’re lethally removing the deer.”

This year, deer management took place during February and March. Nortrup explained NPS operates on a system known as opportunistic removal, meaning any deer regardless of size, antler size, or gender. Nortrup stressed the wildlife management that occurs at specific National Parks is not hunting but management action. The stressed the management system targets overpopulated species.

However, the deer that are removed to not go to waste. Before being sent to various organizations, the venison is professionally processed. The Maryland Food Bank received around 5,000 pounds of venison from Antietam National Battlefield, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and Monocacy National Battlefield.

Nancy Smith, the Senior Director of Government Relations and Strategic Partnership at the Maryland Food Bank, expressed great appreciation for the donation and the ongoing partnership. She explained the recent donation of venison was a much-needed donation as the organization continues to aid families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Before COVID started, we probably had about 650,000 people in our state that were food insecure. Now, we have 1.5 million. And this, it’s a true number, it is startling number,” Smith said. “Until we get back to what we call normal, this is the card that we’re dealt right now. And it [the need for food donations] has not slowed down. It has gone full force ever since March 16th of 2020.”

While the deer management program has provided thousands of meals, it has also produced promising results to the National Park Service. Nortrup explained the deer management program has allowed for native wildlife to recover.

“Catoctin Mountain Park has been doing your management for a number of years, and they’ve actually seen a recovery in their forests of tree seedlings, elevenfold recovery of tree seedlings,” Nortrup stated. “So the deer used to be eating up all those tree seedlings and since they’ve started deer management, they’ve seen the forest start to recover from that deer impact.”

Over the last 5 years, the National Park Service has donated over 70 pounds of venison to local non-profits that include the Maryland Food Bank, D.C. Central Kitchen, the Thurmont Food Bank and many others. For more information on the deer management program, please visit the National Park Service website.

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