Solving the deer problem Second hunt? Howard County executive weighing options because herd has swelled since last year's kill.

November 02, 1998

A SECOND managed deer hunt was expected to have occurred by now in Howard County. It hasn't because County Executive Charles I. Ecker wants to await a report from a task force before deciding whether to proceed. It's a prudent course.

Last year's hunt was deemed successful with 50 deer killed. But officials believe the county herd remains three times as large as it should be. Mr. Ecker is wise to gather more information. He may conclude that measures are needed beyond another hunt.

An August survey in the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area calculated the deer population there at about 106 per square mile. That would mean more than 400 deer in the preserve.

Overall, the state deer population is believed to have doubled over the past five years to 300,000. Deer are a problem in suburbia, where humans have appropriated their natural habitat, and fast cars and trucks have replaced cougars and wolves as their principal enemies.

Lacking other food sources, deer eat one-fifth of farmers' crops in Howard. They carry ticks that transmit Lyme disease. A plan to reduce their number is warranted.

Mr. Ecker's delay has caused plans to be scrapped for three managed hunts between October and February. If Mr. Ecker reschedules those hunts, he could increase the number of hunters and the number of acres involved, but he must not risk residents' safety.

Officials said earlier they would like to kill another 140 deer.

Animal rights activists have urged the county to use nonfatal tactics, including deer contraception, roadside reflectors warning of wildlife and providing deer deterrent information for property owners.

Such methods in the past have been deemed expensive and ineffective. But because Mr. Ecker is taking his time, he should reconsider those methods as well.

Pub Date: 10/31/98

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