VALLEY FORGE, Pa. (CBS) – Officials at Valley Forge Park say the first year of a four-year plan to thin the deer population was successful — and the park’s actions also benefited hungry residents throughout Pennsylvania.

Using sharpshooters and capture-and-euthanasia, 600 deer were removed from the park between November and this month.

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More than 18,000 pounds of venison was donated to soup kitchens, food pantries and other organizations through the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. Three thousand pounds of meat went to Chester County.

Kristina Heister, the park’s natural resources manager, says the deer population has gone from about 200 to about 1,200 over the last two decades.

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“The results of that level of browsing on the landscape has been pretty much the complete removal of the forest understory and the fact that we have not had any level of tree regeneration since 1995,” Heister told KYW Newsradio .

Over four years, Heister says, they hope to reduce the deer population from 241 per square mile to 35 per square mile. After that, they plan to use reproductive control.

Reported by Brad Segall, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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