Sharpshooters cull 281 deer in city’s major parks

Sharpshooters killed 281 deer from Philadelphia’s major parks, including 121 from the Pennypack and 11 from the Tacony Creek during the city’s recently completed annual deer cull.

The program began in December and was conducted on 14 nights over 13 weeks, according to a statement issued by the Department of Parks and Recreation on April 11. Shooters also killed 28 in Cobbs Creek, 77 in Wissahickon and 44 in West Fairmount. The city did not disclose a figure for the number of deer that remain in the parks.

The 281 total marked a slight decline from the 287 killed in 2016, but it represented a continuation of a major upsurge from the 165 killed in 2015. There were 107 deer killed in the Pennypack in 2016 and 68 in 2015. There were 38 killed in the Tacony in 2016 and 16 in 2015.

The city’s deer cull program began in 1999 as an effort to preserve the park ecosystems from deer overpopulation. In 2011, the Chestnut Hill Local reported that sharpshooters had killed more than 2,100 deer citywide to that point, with more than half of that total coming in the first four years of the program. By 2011, however, the annual total had declined to an average of less than 150.

“The amount of deer removed represents a significant step toward reversing the impact of deer overpopulation on the vegetation in these forests and reducing the number of deer-vehicle collisions on Philadelphia roadways,” the department stated in a news release.

During the deer cull season, the city imposes a nighttime curfew on park activity. It does not announce specific dates or locations for sharpshooting. The city harvests the meat of the slain animals and distributed more than 7,000 pounds of venison through local food banks to needy people in the Philadelphia area. ••

— William Kenny