Deer Management Plan for Catoctin Mountain Park

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The National Park Service (NPS) announces the availability of the Record of Decision for the White-tailed Deer Management Plan for Catoctin Mountain Park. On April 17, 2009, the Regional Director, National Capital Region approved the Record of Decision for the project. As soon as practicable, the National Park Service will begin to implement the Preferred Alternative contained in the Final White-tailed Deer Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) issued on December 12, 2008.

Studies have determined that excessive deer browsing reduces forest regeneration, resulting in adverse changes to the forest structure, composition and wildlife habitat. Excessive deer browsing in Catoctin Mountain Park could adversely affect the natural distribution, abundance and diversity of native species, including species of special concern. Browsing has impacted native shrubs, trees and forest systems that comprise the natural vegetation component of the Camp Misty Mount and Camp Greentop cultural landscapes. Furthermore, action is needed to foster greater cooperation with state and local governments currently implementing deer management actions to help achieve mutual deer management goals.

The final plan/EIS analyzed four alternatives, including a no action alternative. The three action alternatives each used different combinations of non-lethal and lethal management tools to reduce the deer population and thus address declining forest regeneration and ensure that natural processes (including the presence of deer) support native vegetation, wildlife, and the cultural landscape of the park. All action alternatives included limited fencing, use of repellents around landscaped areas, deer and vegetation monitoring, data management, and research, as currently implemented under the no action alternative. Action alternatives also utilize an adaptive management strategy in order to better manage based on uncertainty concerning the impacts the change in deer population densities will have on vegetation recovery. By using an adaptive management approach, park managers will be able to change the timing or intensity of management treatments to better meet the goals of the plan as new information is obtained.

Alternative B combined several non-lethal actions including large-scale exclosures (fencing), additional use of repellents in limited areas, and reproductive control of does to gradually reduce the deer population in the park. Alternative C, the selected alternative, includes two lethal actions that will be used in combination to reduce and control deer herd numbers. Qualified federal employees or contractors will conduct sharpshooting to reduce the deer population, and individual deer will be captured and euthanized in certain circumstances where sharpshooting is not appropriate. Alternative D combined elements from alternatives B and C to include sharpshooting, capture and euthanasia, and reproductive control of does. For all alternatives, the full range of foreseeable environmental consequences was assessed and appropriate mitigating measures were identified.

The park has conducted its planning as guided by NPS and Catoctin Mountain Park policies, as well as National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other related requirements. The process also addressed concerns voiced by the public and other agencies.

To view the Record of Decision or the final plan/EIS, click on the Document List on the left.

Contact Information

Catoctin Mountain Park
Resource Management Office
6602 Foxville Road
Thurmont, Maryland 21788