State cuts Patapsco deer hunt expansion Residents complained about original plan to triple park acreage

September 13, 1996|By Ivan Penn and Dana Hedgpeth | Ivan Penn and Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

Officials at the state Department of Natural Resources plan to announce today a scaled-down version of their plan to increase the amount of parkland open to bow-and-arrow deer hunters in Patapsco Valley State Park.

After receiving dozens of complaints from residents near the park, the department decided that its original proposal to triple the amount of parkland open to bow-and-arrow deer hunters was too much.

Natural Resources officials would not give details about the new plan yesterday but did say that the expanded hunting area would be more than 1 1/2 times the size of the old boundaries -- which took in about 1,200 acres.

The period in which the public can comment on the plans will be extended to Oct. 1.

Residents fear that expansion of deer hunting with bows and arrows would endanger nonhunters and limit their use of the 14,000-acre park, which straddles parts of Howard, Carroll and Baltimore counties.

"I'm certainly happy to hear that the geographic area is being reduced," said Margaret Groom of Fort Meade, who keeps a horse in Marriottsville that she rides through the park. "We want to make sure it's going to be safe for everybody in the area."

Natural Resources officials say bow hunting has been proved to be safe, and that even the original proposed boundaries would have been no threat to others in the park. They also wanted to expand bow hunting because of the park's rapidly growing deer population.

"It's a perception problem that people have about bow-and-arrow hunting being unsafe," said Lt. Christopher Bushman, a deputy regional manager in DNR's central region. "There's never been a bow-hunting accident in the state involving a nonhunting participant. This is a safe way of controlling the rising deer population."

The state's deer hunting season begins tomorrow and runs through Jan. 31.

The expanded parkland would not be immediately available to bow-and-arrow hunters, but would be phased in during the season as officials post hunting signs and mark parking areas, officials said.

About 40 bow-and-arrow hunters a day have been allowed to hunt deer six days a week during the season on about 1,200 acres of the park, all in Carroll County.

But Natural Resources officials wanted to control the growing deer population, so they decided to increase the bow-and-arrow hunting boundaries.

The original proposal to increase the hunting boundaries would have opened to 116 bow-and-arrow deer hunters about 3,600 acres of the park six days a week, including an additional 2,375 acres -- about 1,600 acres in Howard County, about 700 acres in Baltimore County and about 75 acres in Carroll County.

Deer overpopulation is a statewide problem. Wildlife experts estimate that there are more than 235,000 deer in the state.

Almost 62,000 deer were killed last season, compared with about 51,000 the year before.

Concern about the growing deer population in Howard County led the County Council to form a task force in July to study the issue. The task force just began its research.

"We have many people saying the deer herd has gotten larger and is causing problems," said Phil Norman, a task force member.

"There's damage to both farm crops and landscape plantings," said Norman, a natural resources coordinator for Howard's Department of Recreation and Parks. "There are people concerned about deer and auto collisions. There is concern about Lyme disease and ticks."

He said the task force is studying ways to handle the deer population. But it will take time, he said, to address concerns raised by various groups.

"The issue of managing a large animal like a deer presents problems because there are conflicting opinions of what people should do," Norman said. "So part of what we're doing is gathering information on management options."

Groom and others who live near or use Patapsco Valley State Park say they understand that something needs to be done to control growth of the deer population in the state, but they want to ensure that hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders are not endangered by such plans as increasing the bow hunting at that park.

Pub Date: 9/13/96

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