National Park Service: Don't Kill Deer in Our Nation’s Capital
  • Petitioning The Director of the National Park Service

This petition will be delivered to:

Jonathan Jarvis
The Director of the National Park Service
Peggy O’Dell
The Regional Director of the National Park Service
Tara D. Morrison
The Superintendent of Rock Creek Park
Secretary of the Interior Department of the Interior
Sally Jewell (Secretary of the Interior Department of the Interior)

National Park Service: Don't Kill Deer in Our Nation’s Capital

    1. Petition by

      Save the Rock Creek Park Deer

Dear Friends –

At the end of the week, a hike or bike ride through Rock Creek National Park, in Washington DC, is a cleansing antidote to a heavy work schedule and the stress of city living. When that hike or bike ride includes a chance meeting with a creature of the forest, however, it becomes a magical, even spiritual, experience. To spot a red fox or a pileated woodpecker really makes our day. To come upon a peaceful, gentle doe and fawn, or a magnificent buck standing in a glen, takes our breath away and confers upon us a profound feeling of gratitude and wellbeing that lasts all week. To know that these beautiful and gentle animals are in the park living out their lives is very important to us. While the world is in upheaval all around us it makes us inexplicably happy and hopeful to know that, at least in the wilds of Rock Creek Park, all is as it should be.

In the spring of 2012, however, the wellbeing of the Park was suddenly threatened. The National Park Service, for the first time in the 123-year history of the park, ordered the killing of half of the park’s 314 deer in the first year of a multi-year killing program for the stated purpose of protecting native plant species from “overbrowsing.” These practically tame deer, who have never before been harassed or hunted, were ordered to be shot with guns and archery after being lured to piles of grain, apples and hay; others would be killed after capturing them with nets and shooting them in the head with penetrating captive-bolt guns, or by bleeding them to death.

A coalition of dedicated Washington residents, attorneys, and animal-protection groups, including In Defense of Animals (IDA), has studied the Park Service proposal in depth and has concluded that the Park Service proposal is not only unprecedented, but it is unnecessary, ineffective, inefficient, inhumane and unacceptable.

There are so many reasons to oppose the Park Service plan:

First, eliminating the deer is unnecessary as there is no deer overpopulation in Rock Creek Park at this time. The Park Service’s own records clearly state that there is no current over-population of deer in Rock Creek Park. Instead, the Park Service plan states that killing is needed to address the “POTENTIAL” of deer becoming the dominant force in the park’s ecosystem, and that deer “COULD POSSIBLY” affect the forest “IN THE FUTURE.”

Secondly, deer aren’t destroying Rock Creek Park; invasive exotic plants are. Since 1996, the National Park Service has identified invasive non-native plants entering the park from neighboring properties to be “the most serious threat to this natural area and the top management priority.” By 2012, however, the Park Service had failed to stem the overwhelming spread of exotic plants and blamed the deer for damage to native plants instead.

Third, even if there were a deer overpopulation problem in Rock Creek Park, killing is unnecessary. There are effective non-lethal ways to control the deer population, and there are many non-lethal ways of protecting plants from deer. Several reproductive control agents developed for wildlife are readily available and have been successfully used elsewhere in the country – including by the National Park Service on other lands under its jurisdiction. The cost is comparable to or less than a killing program. In addition, fencing, deer repellants, and other non-lethal means are used routinely across the country to successfully protect plants from deer.

Fourth, hunting and killing is an ineffective and inefficient way to regulate the deer population. When food is plentiful, deer tend to have twins and even triplets. When food is scarce, they have single fawns, or stop reproducing altogether. After many deer are killed the remaining ones will produce even more fawns since even more food will be available to them. In addition, deer who are killed will rapidly be replaced by deer immigrants from adjacent Maryland.

Fifth, lethal deer controls are inhumane. Luring deer with food and then ambushing them with bullets and archery, capturing them with nets and smashing their skulls with penetrating captive bolts, or bleeding them to death, is brutal and inhumane. In fact, killing wild animals after luring them with food is considered to be so offensive that it is illegal in 28 states.

Archery is widely acknowledged to be a particularly inhumane method of killing. Statistics show that the wounding rate is over 50 percent. This means that for every animal dragged from the woods by a bow hunter, at least one animal is left to suffer and die a slow, excruciating death.

Lastly, killing the deer was overwhelmingly opposed by the public during public comment periods on the Park Service proposal. Fifty-three times as many comments supported an option to use only non-lethal means than opposed it. Fourteen times as many comments opposed the lethal reduction of deer than supported it.

Non-lethal means to control the Rock Creek Park deer are also favored by many elected officials including several members of Congress. Among them are Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, DC, Rep. James. P. Moran of Virginia, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

While we have been able to stall the kill temporarily for the past few months through a lawsuit, the Rock Creek Park deer now desperately need your help. The National Park Service needs to hear from you that killing deer in the middle of the nation’s capital is not acceptable. Please join us by imploring the National Park Service to choose humane, science-based alternatives – such as contraception -- instead of killing. Here in the nation’s capital we should be creating a model for peaceful co-existence with wildlife and exporting that model to other communities.

Please sign this petition and circulate it to as many people as you can in the United States and around the world. For more information, visit Save the Rock Creek Park Deer on Facebook.


Jeremy R. Rifkin and Carol Grunewald

Recent signatures


    1. Reached 15,000 signatures
    2. Rally/Vigil Today Has Started

      The weather is mild! Come out and join us!

    3. Reached 4,000 signatures
    4. Update: Rally/Vigil Tonight, Tomorrow & Saturday at 5 pm

      Please note the time change. For further details, see the post below.

    5. DC-VA-MD Friends, Emergency Rally/Vigil

      From Carol Grunewald:


      In a surprise move, the National Park Service announced late this afternoon that it will begin killing the deer of Rock Creek National Park TONIGHT and will continue each night through Saturday, March 30.


      THIS SITE IS ALONG A VERY BUSY, AND VERY PUBLIC, ROAD. It is one of the few roads that will still be open to the public during the deer kill. THE MEDIA WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE.


    6. Dirty Tactics: Park Service Will Shoot Tonight

      We just found out that Rock Creek Park will be killing deer tonight. This is the first time in the history of the park.

      We were stunned by this news because the National Park Service decision documents concerning this matter state that the killing will be occurring “during the late fall and winter months.“ See Record of Decision at 5, The Park Service’s Final Environmental Impact Statement states the same – see FEIS at 63, But winter has officially ended! It is now spring. The deer should be safe.

      Please help us get the word out about these dirty tactics & share the petition broadly. We need your help today most of all!

      Rock Creek Park to Begin Deer Reduction Operations - Rock Creek Park

      WASHINGTON - Rock Creek Park Superintendent Tara Morrison announced today that several temporary night-time road closures will be in effect from March 27-30, 2013 to provide for visitor safety during white-tailed deer reduction efforts in the park.

    7. Court rules; your help needed now more than ever!

      As you may have heard, yesterday a federal judge decided against us in our case to save the Rock Creek Park deer. We have sent an email to our supporters who have elected to receive messages from us. In it, we explain that while we are saddened by the judge’s decision, it’s important to keep in mind that the judge was ruling only on the legality of the process by which the National Park Service made its decision to kill the deer in Rock Creek Park – not whether such a decision was necessary, moral, or wise. The killing plan is none of those things.

      IMPORTANT: We need your support now more than ever. Please take a few minutes to share our petition to save the Rock Creek Park deer via email, Facebook, and Twitter. The National Park Service needs to hear from your friends, family, and colleagues that the American people do not want the deer killed in Rock Creek Park. There's a more effective, humane way to control deer: contraception.

    8. Reached 2,500 signatures
    9. Montgomery County MD Deer Suffer from a Similar "Cull"

      We recently received a call from a distraught hiker who had encountered a doe in Montgomery County, Maryland, whose face had been shot by "sharpshooters" there. What happened to her is a preview of what the National Park Service wants to do to our deer in Rock Creek Park. Please share our petition to protect the Rock Creek Park deer widely!

      Tell Montgomery County Park Service To Stop Wounding and Killing Deer - - In Defense of Animals

      Contact: Anja Heister, 406-544-5727, In Defense of Animals Calls On Montgomery County Park Service To Stop Wounding and Killing Deer Wounded, Mutilated Deer Found at Wheaton, Maryland Sharpshooting Site Wheaton, Md.

    10. Washington Humane Society offers deer workshops

      Want the Washington Humane Society to do a workshop on deer conflict resolution with your community group? Email

    11. Reached 2,000 signatures
    12. Washington Post Opinions: Don't Kill the Deer in Rock Creek Park

      Leading scientists support reproductive controls, rather than killing for the Rock Creek Park deer. Please read and share!

      Don't kill the deer in Rock Creek Park

      As two scientists with extensive experience using fertility treatments to control wildlife populations, we want to set the record straight regarding whether the National Park Service needs to begin killing the white-tailed deer that live in Rock Creek Park - a small patch of nature in our nation's capital.

    13. Reached 500 signatures
    14. Twitter Chat This Wednesday

      Join us this Wednesday (Feb 6) at 3 pm ET on Twitter for a chat about the #RockCreekDeer and humane urban deer solutions! We tweet as @RockCreekDeer.

      Twitter Chat - Coexisting Peacefully with Rock Creek Park Deer - Washington Humane Society Blog

      When: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 Time: 3pm-4pm Discussion: Coexisting with deer and peaceful deer-conflict resolution in DC's Rock Creek Park. How to participate: Join the discussion on Twitter led by your hosts about deer conflict resolution and coexisting with Rock Creek Park deer. Follow the hosts below and use the hashtags in tweets.

    15. Reached 10 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    Develop your own tools to win.

    Use the API to develop your own organizing tools. Find out how to get started.