By Lee Hall
Friends of Animals’ Third Vigil for the Valley Forge Deer took place on an overcast Saturday just west of Philadelphia. A group of concerned local people educated Valley Forge National Historical Park visitors that the National Park Service wants to control the deer with sharpshooters and pharmaceuticals beginning this winter.
The government has decided that if there were only a few less deer — say, 80% less — there’d be no need to worry about the newly planted saplings, no complaints from nearby homeowners that deer come over and eat their ornamental plants, and so forth. Federal park officials recently issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement that proposes to shoot 80% and pharmaceutically control the survivors.
But the deer population in the park has decreased over the last five years, not increased.
Gregg Lammey, who attended National Parks Day and then came to the vigil, lives a stone’s throw from the five-mile park. “I have plants around my home, and of course I see deer,” said Gregg. “Caring about your garden doesn’t mean killing deer. I’m here to say that you can live near the park and have both.”
The Park itself has many non-native plants and plenty of artificial structures. To blame the deer for offending the forest regeneration work is disingenuous.
And while the government tries to scare us all about Chronic Wasting Disease, there is no such disease in the deer of Pennsylvania. Indeed, the blatantly wrong thing to do would be to decrease the deer population artificially, thereby leaving a vacuum for other deer to fill.
Friends of Animals, together with the locally based group CARE, are filing a suit to head off the federal government’s violent and intrusive plans.
Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, is proposing a similar action against the deer there. Friends of Animals’ DC office will submit detailed public comments opposing the plan.
Even where animal populations are increasing, this is due to our own encroachment (pressing free-living animals into ever smaller spaces) and the removal of predators by allowing people to hunt or trap them. The Pennsylvania Game Commission currently treats coyotes as vermin. Yet they are capable predators when hunting in pairs or groups.
We are pressing for respect for animals to balance themselves ““ which they do, despite our constant pressure and interference.
Hands off the Valley Forge Deer!
Special thanks to Maryanne Appel, Steve Appel, Deanna Calderaio, Christine Carney, Wilson Geiger and Allison Memmo Geiger, Greg Lafontaine, Gregg Lammey, Matt McLaughlin, and Char Padworny.