Activists win round in fight to protect Sandy Point deer But Maryland officials say hunting ban is temporary

October 24, 1997|By Kristi E. Swartz | Kristi E. Swartz,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Deer will run free in Sandy Point State Park this winter, a victory for animal rights activists who think the ban on hunting will be permanent, despite statements to the contrary from state officials.

What Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials are saying is that hunting has been banned temporarily while the best way to control deer populations in all the state's suburban parks is studied.

That will take 18 months. No plan has been devised for the study, and no one knows how many deer are in the parks.

A year ago, citing a rising deer population, DNR authorized hunting in Sandy Point, setting off a firestorm of protests.

This fall, the animals are roaming freely and are easy to spot, often clustered in groups of four or five in the wooded picnic area just before land meets water by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

DNR says that it will delay making decisions about hunting until it looks at such issues as deer population control, shore erosion, forest buffers and boating access at Sandy Point, Fort Frederick State Park at Indian Springs in Washington County, Patuxent River State Park at Gaithersburg and Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area at Chestertown.

The department wants the public to participate in the study, though how, officials haven't determined.

The study is in its initial stages, according to park manager Gerry Thompson.

Neither the state department nor park officials have done a count to determine the deer population, said Sgt. Wayne Suydam of Sandy Point State Park. Generally, controlling deer population is extolled as a way to keep a deer herd healthy and to reduce the crop damage and traffic accidents deer can cause.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, active in protesting hunting last year, wants the state to prohibit recreational deer hunting because it "is not an effective or humane way to control the deer population in Maryland's parks," SPCA Executive Director Frank Branchini said.

The group is working with the Maryland Coalition for Wildlife to campaign against deer hunting at Sandy Point State Park and to get hunting eliminated at other suburban state parks, he said.

"What they did last year was new, and I think they did something very unpopular and don't want to say they made a mistake," Branchini said.

But Branchini said hunting is no way to control the number of deer and the state really just allowed hunting because the sport is popular.

"Population control doesn't work if you have to do it every year," he said. "It's not even hunting vs. no hunting, it's whoever complains the loudest can kill the animals."

Pub Date: 10/24/97

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