Sandy Point hunt misses the mark Anne Arundel County: Case for a deer harvest by youth at state park is not convincing.

November 12, 1996

INDEFINITELY DELAYING the proposed youth bow hunt at Sandy Point State Park is the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' only reasonable course of action.

At this point, going ahead with the twice-delayed hunt will considerably damage the department's credibility and make it more difficult to conduct future deer hunts at the park, perched at the western edge of the Bay Bridge.

DNR's first task is to better substantiate its claim that deer are overrunning the park. At its most recent hearing, the department said its studies had shown a population of 40 deer per square mile -- or about twice as many as acceptable for land covered with trees and brush. The evidence the department offered, though, did not support that figure.

If the park habitat could not sustain the current herd, there should be obvious signs: The park's vegetation would be stressed. Hungry animals would wander into residential areas and eat shrubs, plants and young trees in people's yards.

But residents offered contradictory anecdotal evidence about deer in their neighborhoods. Until DNR can show that the deer are starving or damaging gardens, ample justification for a hunt seems to fall short.

Once the department can establish the need to cull the deer population at Sandy Point, it should abandon the idea of a youth bow hunt -- and not for the reasons cited by animal protection groups, which contend that teaching children to hunt encourages violent behavior. Parents, in fact, have every right to teach tracking and hunting skills to their children. We just don't think it is wise to use youthful bow hunters at Sandy Point park if the purpose is to reduce the deer herd.

If a first-ever hunt is to be conducted at Sandy Point, hunters should be experienced to minimize the danger to other people who might be using the park. Also, to reduce the number of wounded animals that might wander through residential neighborhoods or onto busy U.S. 50, which is adjacent to the park.

If DNR wants to promote recreational bow hunting and give youths the opportunity to hone their skills, such a hunt could be staged at a more isolated state facility. Going ahead with the hunt as proposed would only give DNR a black eye.

Pub Date: 11/12/96

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