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Rock Creek Park Deer Hunting: Washington D.C. Lawsuit Thrown Out

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Oh dear, oh deer.

Five D.C. residents and an animal rights group that sued to stop the National Park Service from hunting white tailed deer in D.C.'s Rock Creek Park had their motion for summary judgment dismissed by a federal judge on Thursday.

Robert L. Wilkins of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia found that the park service acted within its authority in coming up with its plan to control an "overabundant white-tailed deer population," through both lethal and non-lethal means.

The non-lethal means include a kind of chemical birth control, that the plaintiffs support. The lethal means are the ones at issue -- they "include sharpshooting as well as capture and euthanasia," according to Park Service materials. The plaintiffs claim in their legal filings that such executions turn "a tranquil oasis of wildness in the middle of our nation’s capital into a killing field", and others say this could be helpful to food banks that would receive the donated venison.

NPS, for its part, says culling the 2000-odd acre urban park's deer population from about 80 per square mile down to about 20 per square mile is necessary to protect plants and habitats for other animals, since the deer are, the agency says, eating their way through Rock Creek Park's vegetation.

Opponents of their method, having lost in court, are taking their case to the people. The plaintiffs are asking supporters to sign a petition entitled "National Park Service: Don't Kill Deer in Our Nation’s Capital". As of Thursday evening, they had more than 2,500 signatures.

And if this group is the most vocal and the most litigious, they're not the only ones unhappy with NPS's plan. A little over a year ago in a posting to the NRA Hunters Rights website, a complaint alleged that by doing the sharp-shooting themselves, the Park Service was denying non-governmental hunters "the opportunity to contribute--an irony considering that the problem would not exist if hunting were allowed in the first place."

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