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Suit: Culling deer in park would cause 'killing field'

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By Reuters
Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, 8:22 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Animal-rights activists filed a lawsuit on Thursday to try stopping a plan to cull deer in a Washington park, saying it would create a “killing field” in the heart of the U.S. capital.

The deer population in Rock Creek Park has soared in recent years, creating a threat to plant life. The National Park Service said in May that it would begin a program to trim numbers to 15 to 20 per square mile, from 67 recorded in a 2009 census.

Residents and activists filed suit in a U.S. District Court charging that the planned cull in the 12-mile-long park would create a “killing field” in the heart of Washington.

The National Park Service plans to use sharpshooters or reproductive controls to cut deer numbers. Shooting would be carried out mostly at night in the winter and autumn. Venison would be donated to food banks.

The agency plans to use the techniques, along with sharpshooters and bow hunters. The agency said the forest can't regenerate naturally because the deer density is at least three times greater than the park can sustain.

The suit by five area residents — including economist Jeremy Rifkin and the In Defense of Animals advocacy group — said the park service would be violating its statutory obligations to conserve wildlife and allow visitors to enjoy the park.

The suit said that if the cull is carried out, it would be the first time that the killings of wildlife is allowed in the park since it was formed in the 19th century.

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