Deer hunt OK'd on Smithsonian land Herd a problem, neighbors say

October 17, 1993|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Heeding neighbors, politicians and the state Department of Natural Resources, the Smithsonian Institution for Environmental Studies in Edgewater has agreed for the first time to allow a managed deer hunt on its land.

Residents near the 2,600-acre facility in southern Anne Arundel County have complained for years that an overpopulation of deer was eating everything from soybeans to azaleas, as well as causing traffic hazards by darting into the road.

Robert Adams, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, agreed Tuesday that the research facility be included in a regional hunt managed by the Department of Natural Resources.

Although specifics of the hunt have not been decided, state officials said hunters probably would be chosen by lottery for a hunt to be held in the winter.

The oversupply of deer is a problem statewide, noted Torrey C. Brown, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.

Paul Peditto, district wildlife biologist for the Maryland Wildlife Division, said the deer problem is especially severe in and around the research facility. Deer there enjoy plenty of food, a mild climate and no natural enemies.

Mr. Peditto said an estimated 1,000 deer in the area have damaged low-lying shrubs in the forests, trampled stream banks and destroyed crops.

"There are deer everywhere, eating shrubbery and generally making pests of themselves," said Byron Lee, a resident of the area.

Mr. Peditto said that a managed hunt is "the most logistically practical way to control the herd."

Although residents have tried for years to persuade the Smithsonian to allow hunting, the institution until now has forbidden it.

Spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said that the institution tried to control the deer by erecting fences, but that diverted the deer to neighboring farms. Sterilization and relocation were considered, but those methods were deemed impractical, Ms. St. Thomas said.

Residents in Galesville and Edgewater mounted a petition drive last summer to demand that the Smithsonian allow a hunt.

Carol Joynt, one of the organizers, said she became concerned after she learned that some property owners had been given off-season hunting permits to kill the deer.

Ms. Joynt talked with Mr. Peditto, and she and her neighbors concluded that a managed hunt would be the safest and most efficient way to thin the herd.

Residents held a series of meetings and enlisted the help of Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th, and Mr. Brown.

Both officials wrote to the Smithsonian in support of the residents' request for a managed hunt.

The two officials' influence was cited as one reason the Smithsonian agreed to participate in a regional hunt, but another reason may have been concern for its staff.

Smithsonian officials say that 20 of approximately 100 workers at the research facility have contracted Lyme disease, which is caused by ticks that can live on deer.

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