National Park Service officials have called off a planned deer kill at Valley Forge National Historical Park this winter.

Park Superintendent Michael Caldwell confirmed today that the shooting of 500 deer will not go forward, as the park evaluates ongoing contractual matters and a pending lawsuit.

Caldwell said the park's November-to-March window for conducting the first kill was fast closing, and that it would be impossible to award a sharpshooting contract before next year. At the same time, he said, the park is evaluating how to proceed in a lawsuit filed by animal-rights groups that seek to stop the shooting.

The superintendent declined to comment on the litigation, referring those questions to the Justice Department, which represents the NPS.

Valley Forge officials say the herd has grown big and destructive, and earlier announced a four-year plan to reduce the deer population by 80 percent. Administrators planned to shoot 500 deer the first year, 500 the second, and between 250 and 300 in years three and four.

They proposed to have federal employees or contractors fire high-power, silencer-equipped rifles, mostly at night, at deer lured to areas baited with apples and grain. Over the next four years, officials planned to reduce the herd from an estimated 1,277 to between 165 and 185.

Contact Jeff Gammage at 215-854-2415, or jgammage@phillynews.com

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