Suburban pests The deer boom: More controls needed when wildlife gets out of hand in populous areas.

August 06, 1996

DEER AND GEESE are not so delightful any more in suburbia. Sure, nearly everyone delights at the sight of Canada geese scripting their "V" across the sky. And "Bambi" has turned generations of movie-goers into lifelong deer lovers.

But these creatures have become pests for many suburbanites. Ironically, it is the residents' very presence (and food) that helps these animals multiply so fast.

At Lake Kittamaqundi in the heart of Howard County's Columbia, Canada geese congregate by the dozens on land for food offered by diners of nearby restaurants. Once thought to be near extinction, the migratory birds have abandoned their Arctic habitat in large numbers and have relocated permanently in urban and suburban locations. They become a nuisance in these places, littering residential and commercial areas with unhealthy and unsightly droppings.

The problem is worsened in Columbia by diners who ignore "Do not feed" signs. The Columbia Council, which oversees public areas in the planned city, is considering a viable solution, using a border collie to chase gaggles from the shore. The dogs have proved effective in controlling geese elsewhere and could make Columbia's lakefront more sanitary.

Meanwhile, the Howard County Council has followed Montgomery County's lead, asking a task force to find ways to control the growing deer population that is wreaking economic havoc on farmers and destroying homeowners' gardens. The more serious problem, however, is the potential for automobile damage and injury to motorists and deer alike when the fleet animals dash onto suburban roadways.

In Maryland, the deer population is at record numbers -- more than 235,000. And the number continues to rise despite bountiful deer harvests. State officials say hunters last year killed 62,000 deer in Maryland, a sharp increase over the previous season, with the number of deer killed rising by 291 in Howard County, 362 in Anne Arundel County, 605 in Carroll County, 214 in Harford County and 431 in Baltimore County.

Short of a simple and humane solution, suburbanites will lose their affection for these animals and view them increasingly as a major nuisance and a serious road hazard.

Pub Date: 8/06/96

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