The gate to the Old Mastic House, the building on the grounds of the historic William Floyd Estate, is closed this time of year as always. But a small sign affixed to the gate offers a warning about a controversial deer cull currently being conducted.

“AREA CLOSED,” the sign states. “ALL NATIONAL PARK SERVICE AREA CLOSED TO PUBLIC USE AND TRAVEL BECAUSE OF EMERGENCY CONDITIONS.”

The planned cull, which was set to begin on Feb. 20, was stopped in court through a restraining order as a federal judge considered the arguments of environmental groups who sought alternative means to handle the deer population. Officials say there are too many and are endangering the rest of the local natural habitat.  

U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Feurstein at first allowed the stay to remain in effect while she decided. But on Feb. 26, she ruled in favor of the National Parks Service, which oversees the estate.

NPS spokeswoman Elizabeth Rogers said the cull will proceed through March 31. It is being carried out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service employees.

“Details of the operation (dates and times) will not be released to ensure the highest level of safety. The outcome of the operation will be announced after its completion,” Rogers said in an email.

She directed further questions on court actions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“The slaughter of deer at William Floyd Estate by the National Park Service is another shameful act by an agency with a mandate to protect—not persecute—native wildlife,” said DJ Schubert, wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute.  “The park service is now engaged in the lethal management of native wildlife in some of America’s most cherished and popular parks like Yellowstone, Rock Creek, Valley Forge, and Gettysburg instead of allowing nature to control wildlife populations consistent with its legal mandate.”