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Antietam Lake Park Deer Management Program Update

by The County of Berks

Antietam Lake Park Deer Management Program Update

Editor’s Note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, the sharpshooting phase of the Antietam Lake Park Deer Management Program will not be proceeding in March and April as previously announced.

The Berks County Parks and Recreation Department will continue to work with USDA Wildlife Services to monitor the deer populations on the property and take appropriate measures if and when deemed necessary.

The County of Berks is preparing for the start of the controlled sharpshooting phase of the Antietam Lake Park Deer Management Program to help reduce deer populations to alleviate any negative impact to parks and achieve a balanced ecosystem. The Antietam Lake Park Deer Management Program is a joint venture between the Berks County Parks and Recreation Department and USDA Wildlife Services that was approved by the Berks County Commissioners in April 2021.

The overarching goals of the program are to reduce damage to park land and forest property, minimize the threat of disease, reduce deer-related accidents and re-balance the ecosystem. The white-tailed deer is one of the most influential wildlife species in Pennsylvania’s forested ecosystems. However, when their population is out of balance with their habitat, deer can negatively affect County forests and parks by over-browsing tree seedlings, shrubs and wildflowers. Over-browsing alters the diversity and habitat for other forest mammals and birds, eliminates the shrub layer, greatly reduces the diversity of forest-floor plant species and creates a flooding risk.

For these reasons, the County of Berks instituted a Deer Management Program to protect and enhance the Antietam Lake Park Properties based on needs identified by the USDA. The first phase of the program, a controlled archery hunt, took place from September 2021 to January 2022 and removed 26 deer. After the controlled archery hunt concluded, studies were performed to determine if the desired level for deer density had been reached. The desired deer density for a healthy, diverse forest habitat is about 20 to 25 deer per square mile. The current deer density of Antietam Lake Park is estimated at 83 deer per square mile. Since the current density is still much higher than the desired level, the deer management program will be moving into a controlled sharpshooting phase.

The sharpshooting operation will be conducted at night by USDA Wildlife Services in late March and April 2022, as part of a Cooperative Service Agreement with the County of Berks. The deer removed by the sharpshooting operations will be processed and the venison will be donated to a local food bank for human consumption, as required by PA Game Commission regulations. The deer removal operation is a management strategy that addresses over-browsing of native vegetation and supports long-term protection, preservation and restoration of critical elements of the natural and cultural resources while maintaining a healthy deer population.

For more information about the Deer Management Program, please see the attached information sheet from the Berks County Parks and Recreation Department or contact the department at [email protected] or 610-372-8939.