(Deer) Camp David

Camp David isn't your typical deer camp. Instead of trail cams, there are high-tech surveillance cameras. Instead of tree stands, there are sniper posts. Then, too, the President probably isn't hunting at your deer camp, but you could be hunting at his if you're a National Park Service sharpshooter.

In April, public comment was sought on ways to manage the deer herd around the famous presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains. Deer are rapidly destroying seedlings, plants and other vegetation on the forest floor. This has experts worried about the health and sustainability of the woods in the 9.1-square-mile park. Some new-growth woods in the area have been severely damaged by the deer herds. The park service has studied the herd over the last 20 years and determined that the deer density is roughly 112 to 192 per square mile--significantly more than the target herd density of 25 per square mile.

One solution the park committee is weighing is to bring in sharpshooters to take out much of the herd. Of course, animal-rights activists, led by the Humane Society of the United States, are crying foul. The organization would like to see non-lethal methods such as repellants, fences and contraceptives used.

Sharpshooters were enlisted at nearby Gettysburg National Military Park to thin deer numbers. In 1991 the Gettysburg herd was so large that counts put the density at 447 per square mile (another count estimated as many as 721 deer per square mile). Since 1995 sharpshooters have killed almost 2,000 deer, donating the meat to shelters and processing facilities. --W.S.

Tattle Tails

If you hear squirrels suddenly begin to bark and you've done nothing to upset them, be alert. It may signify that a deer or turkey is nearby.