Deer hunting set for Ridley Creek State Park

Posted: August 26, 2010

For self-described animal lover Lynne Ciampoli, the deer grazing in the fields of her neighborhood bordering Ridley Creek State Park are "beautiful and fascinating" visions to watch.

But the 83-year-old resident of White Horse Village also knows what damage deer can do.

"When you hear of people hitting deer and being injured, and cars sustaining damage . . . something has to be done," said Ciampoli, whose daughter and son have both had collisions with deer.

To that end, park officials this week announced that archers who pledge to adhere to Pennsylvania Game Commission rules can begin hunting in selected portions of the Delaware County park from Sept. 18 through Dec. 11, and from Dec. 27 through Jan. 29, 2011. Since the early 1980s, hunters have helped cull the herd at the 2,606-acre park.

Applications for shotgun hunters will be accepted in September only. A lottery Oct. 9 will select 200 hunters each day for Dec. 2 and Dec. 9 to take both antlered and antlerless deer. About 1,200 hunters are expected to apply.

Damage from deer is affecting the long-term health of trees at the park, said Roger McChesney, park manager, especially because the animals feed on saplings.

"We are essentially getting, at this point, zero growth," McChesney said Wednesday.

Based on a survey of deer droppings and how much deer feed or browse on vegetation, McChesney said there are between 80 and 140 deer per square mile in the park, which has about four square miles.

"Most people say anything beyond 20 to 22 deer exceeds the carrying capacity of the browse," he said.

Birth control, favored by those opposed to hunting deer, doesn't work, said McChesney.

"Each female must be injected twice a year," he said. "If we can't catch them with a gun during hunting, how are we going to catch them twice a year to inject birth control?"

Deer culls in some area parks have drawn opposition. Last year, a planned herd-thinning at Valley Forge National Historical Park was called off after two animal-rights groups filed lawsuits. Deer hunting also occurs at other locations, including Neshaminy, Nockamixon, and French Creek State Parks.

At Tyler Arboretum near Ridley Park, a fence along 100 acres of the 650-acre botanical garden allows wildlife - except deer - to pass through.

"We are definitely affected by the overpopulation of white-tailed deer," said Rick Colbert, executive director of the garden.

The organization holds its own deer cull to coincide with the state seasons.

A limited number of hunters who agree with stringent restrictions participate, Colbert said.


Contact staff writer Mari A. Schaefer at 610-892-9149 or mschaefer@phillynews.com.

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