The Heinz Wildlife Refuge wants to allow hunting behind the airport

Under the new plan, hunters with crossbows would be allowed to shoot deer.

James Capaldi / Flickr Creative Commons

People flying into PHL Airport might get something new to look at during takeoff and landing: deer hunters.

The John Heinz Wildlife Refuge at Tinicium announced Thursday it’s looking for public input on a plan to implement hunting. The ostensible goal is to curtail overpopulation of white-tailed deer.

There will be no guns allowed — the proposed plan calls for archery hunting only.

The refuge, established in 1972, comprises 1,200 acres of freshwater tidal marsh that are home to dozens of fish, wildlife (including the occasional snowy owl) and plants native to the Delaware Estuary. Hunting, even by bow and arrow, has never before been allowed on its grounds, “because of potential conflicts with local refuge regulations and safety concerns,” per the refuge website.

An outline of the proposed hunt plan provided by the Heinz Refuge dismisses those conflicts and concerns.

In the plan, approximately 170 acres in three areas would be opened to white-tailed deer hunting. No more than 12 hunters would be allowed in on any given day, as decided by lottery, with preference given to first-time youths and disabled persons.

Pennsylvania Game Commission regulations only allow hunting within Philadelphia County through the use of archery or crossbows.

As far as safety, the proposal would establish zones adjacent to any residential areas, and would close nature trails and access points on hunt days. Canoe launches would be held up, and hunters would be “instructed” to not shoot across waterways.

Hunting deer will actually be good for the health of the refuge, the Heinz proposal suggests.

Per the authors, hunting would improve “vegetative conditions” because deer have been eating so much native plant life that invasive foreign species have begun to take over — not ideal for the many migratory birds that stop by twice a year.

The cost of implementing the new activity is estimated at $4,500, and its annual budget is expected to be $9,000, to cover staff to check hunters in and out (with assistance from the Game Commission) and collection of biological info about the killed deer.

The first public presentation of the hunt plan is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 30, at Ezekiel Baptist Church in Southwest Philly. The second will be held 6 p.m. Friday, May 4, at the Tinicum Township Municipal Building in Essington.

Comments are also being accepted via email to or via snail mail to

Hunt Plan, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
8601 Lindbergh Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19153

Thanks for reading all the way

Seems you’re the kind of person who really digs in. Want more? Get an update direct to your inbox each morning, with everything you need to stay on top of Philly news.

Thanks for reading all the way

Been seeing you here a lot lately — seems like you’re the kind of newshound who really digs in. If you value the info we provide, become a member today!

Billy Penn runs on reader support

Like the story above, everything we publish is powered by people like you. If our work helps you learn about Philadelphia, we’d love to count you as a member.

Lock in your support

The article above was published thanks to your support! A monthly membership will help ensure Billy Penn can keep reporting on Philly news.

Spread the love

Billy Penn members like you are the reason our newsroom keeps going. Know someone who might want to support our work? Send them a note — they just might join the local journalism fight.