PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Officials say sharpshooters have killed 600 deer at Valley Forge National Historical Park, or nearly half of the park’s estimated deer population.

National Park Service officials say the first year of the four-year culling program has sent more than nine tons of meat to food banks.

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Officials hope to reduce the white-tail deer population from an estimated 1,277 before the operation began in November to less than
200. They say the herd is devouring the native forest and crowding out other species.

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Animal rights groups say officials have failed to consider other options. Attorney Lee Hall of Friends of Animals told The Philadelphia Inquirer that hearings before a federal appeals court are expected in late May or June. Lee also says she believes the deer population estimates may be inflated.

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