Robey opens door for hunt at preserve

Executive to hold meetings with groups to explain his decision

Animal advocates angered

Move comes before report on population of deer is released

July 01, 1999|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

After canceling a deer hunt in January in Howard County's Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, County Executive James N. Robey will allow hunting to resume on the 1,000-acre preserve this winter.

The decision -- welcomed by hunters and beleaguered suburbanites, but scorned by animal advocates -- comes as a long-awaited report on the county's deer population and ways to control it is due.

Robey revealed his plan this week without waiting for the report, but refused yesterday to explain his reasons until meeting with animal advocates and other interested parties.

"I made a decision to do it, but I haven't told the other groups. I want to talk with those folks first," he said.

The report -- Robey's stated reason for putting the January hunt on hold -- is due for delivery within the next week or two, said Chic Rodehamel, director of the Open Space Management Division for the Columbia Association and chairman of the Deer Management Task Force.

Hunting advocates said they don't need the report's findings, however, claiming the deer are so numerous they're sometimes a dangerous nuisance.

"I have a family of eight deer that practically live in my back yard. They've eaten the azaleas and whatever else they can find," said Tammy CitaraManis, who added she recently pulled a deer tick from her 4-year-old daughter's scalp.

"There's no vegetation on cedars, from ground level up to 4 to 5 feet," said Jeffrey Duguay, county manager of the environmental area. He said he sees deer daily, including fawns, and also evidence of vegetation damage by deer.

The county has built 10 fenced enclosures to test the difference between vegetation inside, where plants are safe from deer, and outside over a two- to three-year period.

The county has ordered light reflectors for the fall that are supposed to keep deer away from two sections of county roads in Clarksville and Ellicott City. If the devices work, the county will get more, said John R. Byrd, chief of the bureau of parks and program services in the county's Department of Recreation and Parks.

Those are the kind of measures that Ann Selnick, a member of Animal Advocates of Howard County, wants to see -- not hunting.

"We're very, very, very disappointed to hear that," she said of Robey's decision. "You don't solve anything from killing. Can't we try nonlethal ways? What are we showing our children, that we solve all our problems with a gun?"

Selnick said she doubts the estimates of more than 400 deer roaming the area, alleged vegetation damage and claims of deer overpopulation. "I have deer in my back yard. I don't put the shrubbery out that they like. They're magnificent," she said, and not a nuisance any more than her three dogs and four cats are. "They don't bother me."

Hunters see things differently.

"Having been raised on the farm and hunted all my life, I believe [the hunt is] needed," said Mark Wilson, 47, who has hunted in the environmental area. The last hunt two years ago killed 65 deer.

Tom Greenbank, who has a county contract to pick up dead animals, collected 503 deer off county roads last year. He said the number increases each year.

Anyone who doubts deer are a problem "can come along with me and see the devastation," he said. "We have too many people and too many deer in too small a space, and, in my personal opinion, hunting is a viable, inexpensive way of helping control the deer."

Pub Date: 7/01/99

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