Deer Population Control
With deer populations around 50 deer per square mile, a hunt was held Saturday at Rockbridge Memorial State Park to try to keep the problem under control. Rockbridge Park closed for the weekend for a managed deer hunt, something park officials hope will bring its eco-system back into balance. The park was quiet with the exception of one noise: The sound of gunshots.
"We're taking this opportunity to reduce our deer population," said naturalist Roxie Campbell. "When you have an over-population of deer they feed on certain plant species to the point where it effects the species that you have in your forest."
The park district tries to keep the number of deer around twenty-five deer per square mile. The population is double that number now, so about one hundred people have been allowed to hunt the closed park this weekend. Officials use things like these managed deer hunts as a way to balance eco-systems, something they say is important for the park's welfare.
"If you get too many deer then it may lead to disease among the deer, then the deer population is sick, and you don't want that to happen," said Park Superintendent Jim Gast. "The more deer we have running here in the park the more likely they are to be running across Highway 63 and getting hit by automobiles."
Each hunter has about 25 acres and is allowed up to three antlerless deer each. Officials hope that when this hunt is done, the numbers will be at a healthy level again.
Of the four managed hunts so far, the highest number of deer killed is only 85. Those participating can hunt until a half hour after sunset.
Because this is in such a residential area, they also restricted the use of firearms to muzzleloaders, which are guns that don't shoot as far and need to be reloaded after each shot.
The park will re-open to patrons starting Monday. Until then, it's important everyone understand that for their own protection, the park is closed.