AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Sharpshooters would kill as many as 350 deer annually for four years under a plan to reduce herd size in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, under a plan announced this week.

The goal of the plan unveiled Thursday is reaching sustainable numbers of 15-30 deer per square mile in the park between Cleveland and Akron, down from the current 41 per square mile.

The Akron Beacon Journal reports the plan would be followed by a contraceptive program for does to keep the herd from growing again. Officials say some annual culling by sharpshooters may still be necessary.

The park service has been studying the issue for eight years. “This is a huge milestone,” said Lisa Petit, chief of resource management for the park.

The park service made similar recommendations in 2013.

The park service will begin implementing the deer management plan this winter, said park spokeswoman Mary Pat Doorley.

Sharpshooters would shoot the deer at night from baited stands in areas of the park off-limits to the public. The venison would go to local food banks.

In 1997, the park proposed shooting up to 470 deer before a federal judge rejected the idea following a lawsuit by an animal-rights group.

Officials argue the cull is needed to protect trees and other vegetation in the 33,000-acre federal park. The deer population is about 1,700.

Other national parks have adopted similar plans to deal with deer and elk, including Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Indiana and Valley Forge National Historic Park in Pennsylvania.

Summit Metro Parks and Cleveland Metroparks have used sharpshooters to kill deer for years.

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Online: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectId=10817

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Information from: Akron Beacon Journal, http://www.ohio.com