Controlling deer and poachers Wildlife in the suburbs: Professional, managed hunts to cull burgeoning herds.

November 16, 1996

REPORTS OF DEER killed illegally in the Wakefield community in Baltimore County's Timonium, and of razor-sharp deer-hunting arrows found near homes there, have again raised the dilemma of too many deer in the suburbs and the obvious dangers of hunting to cope with the problem.

First, these deer were killed by poachers -- outlaw hunters -- because hunting is banned in the Loch Raven Reservoir watershed that surrounds Wakefield. The Department of Natural Resources and watershed police need to respond with patrols to limit danger to residents and recreation users.

Community residents recognize that soaring numbers of wild deer pose an increasing nuisance to their gardens, shrubbery and homes. The state DNR finds severe overcrowding of deer in the watershed, at four to seven times the normal capacity. At Pine Ridge Golf Course's driving range by the reservoir, dozens of deer graze implacably just beyond the reach of the farthest-hit golf ball.

The answer may be to close down the 3,100-acre reservoir area to public use for a time and undertake a planned, controlled, concerted hunting effort to thin the herds.

This newspaper has called for professional, managed hunts to deal with such problems before. In similar fashion, Maryland DNR has organized managed hunts on certain state lands, with limited numbers of licensed hunters assigned specific sites under careful monitoring. While these approaches cost money and considerable effort of state game agents, they aim to meet a community need without the danger of unmanaged hunters set loose. They could be bow or rifle hunts, depending on conditions set by DNR.

Wildlife managers insist that deer hunting is the only proven tool to control herds. They point to expanded bow hunting as a safe, efficient method. Yet Maryland's deer population continues to rise, even as hunting opportunities expand, deer kills increase and human hunting and tracking technology improves.

The 250,000 deer in this state today exceed the estimated numbers during colonial times. Natural selection and broader hunting seasons may limit growth in more rural areas, but targeted, managed hunts are needed to cull the proliferating cervine herds in suburbia.

Pub Date: 11/16/96

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