DEER IN THE PARK
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The deer in Rock Creek Park are native White Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
There is no specific information about the deer in Rock Creek Park, beyond estimates of their density and the observation that they seem to be in good condition. But they are presumably similar to those in adjacent Maryland.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources:
Adult white-tailed deer are about three feet tall at the front shoulders. Maryland yearling bucks (males) weigh an average of 105 pounds; yearling does (females) average 90 pounds. During the warm months, deer possess reddish-brown hair. A grayish-brown coat with a thick undercoat replaces the reddish hair during the cold time period.
Landscapes with an abundance of edge habitat (areas where forested and open habitat meet) support prime deer habitats. Because of this, suburban sprawl creates ideal habitat conditions for white-tailed deer.
The typical, annual average home range for white-tailed deer is considered about one square mile (640 acres). However, the sex and age of the deer and habitat types will influence varying size home ranges. Yearling males will move many miles while adult females usually have smaller stable, annual home ranges. Deer in good quality habitat will need to travel less than deer in poor quality habitat.
Maryland white-tailed deer begin breeding in October and continue to breed through mid December. Most does become pregnant during the first half of November. Fawns (baby deer) are born during May and June after a gestation period of about 200 days. Yearling does usually give birth to single fawns. Mature does in good physical condition frequently produce twins.”
Does can often be seen traveling together particularly in the winter when food tends to be scarce. Often, fawns will remain with their mothers through the winter and into early spring. Typically, young bucks leave their mothers earlier than young does. Bucks are often solitary creatures aside from the breeding season and occasionally during the summer when they form bachelor bands.
History of Deer in Rock Creek Park
In the early days of European exploration and settlement, deer were observed to be plentiful in the area that later became Washington DC. (A Sketch of the Natural History of the District Of Columbia, Waldo McAtee, 1919), but were very rare in the area by 1900. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the period from then until the 1960's was a period of population restoration and deer proliferated due to ideal habitat conditions and the protection of female deer from harvest.
According to the National Park Service, deer were first spotted in the 1960s. From the 1960s to the early 1990s, deer observation cards were collected to document sightings. By the early 1990s, deer sightings were so prevalent that observation cards were no longer completed. Draft EIS pp 13-14 . Since the year 2000, when Rock Creek Park began using its current method of deer density estimation, the population has been constant with yearly variations.