WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Animal rights activists filed a lawsuit on Thursday to try to stop a plan to cull deer in a Washington park, saying it would create a "killing field" in the heart of the U.S. capital.
The deer population in Rock Creek Park has soared in recent years, creating a threat to plant life, and the National Park Service said in May that it would launch a program to trim numbers to 15 to 20 per square mile (six to eight per square km), from 67 (26) recorded in a 2009 census.
Residents and activists filed suit in a U.S. District Court charging that the planned cull in the 12-mile-long (19-km-long) park would create a "killing field" in the heart of Washington.
The NPS plans to use sharpshooters or reproductive controls to cut deer numbers. Shooting would be carried out mostly at night in the winter and autumn and the meat donated to food banks.
The suit by five area residents, including economist Jeremy Rifkin, and the In Defense of Animals advocacy group said the NPS would be violating its statutory obligations to conserve wildlife and allow visitors to enjoy the park.
The suit said that if the cull went ahead it would be the first time the killing of wildlife had been allowed in the park since it was created in the 19th century.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by David Brunnstrom)