Just the name of the neighborhood may conjure up the image of merry men on a deer hunt, with the local sheriff none too pleased.
But in Anne Arundel County's Sherwood Forest -- a well-to-do waterfront community -- state officials want a select group of hunters to take on a burgeoning deer population that is devouring shrubs and plants and posing a threat of disease.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced plans yesterday for a managed hunt in the 600 acres of woods surrounding the community of 341 homes north of Annapolis. It will be a first for Sherwood Forest, where hunting is ordinarily banned by a community covenant.
Residents and DNR officials hope the four-day season will take 20 to 25 deer from a population estimated at 100 for the approximately 1-square-mile area.
"Twenty to 40 per square mile, you start seeing significant damage no vegetation below 5 or 6 feet [in height]," said DNR spokesman John Surrick. "On our public lands, 20 to 40 is a level at which they start affecting other species," such as small birds or animals that feed on or close to the ground, he said.
A survey of Sherwood Forest residents last year indicated that about 40 percent had seen damage to their nursery stock or gardens from deer, according to Surrick.
Residents were also concerned about the risk of Lyme disease, which is carried by deer ticks, and the increased danger of car accidents posed by deer, according to Bart Key, manager of the Sherwood Forest Club, which oversees the community.
DNR officials said about 8 percent of residents reported having had road accidents with white-tailed deer in recent years, and 21 adults and seven pets have been diagnosed with or treated for Lyme disease since 1992, according to the community survey.
The Anne Arundel Health Department said yesterday that 95 confirmed cases of Lyme disease have occurred in the county this year. It could not be determined whether any of those cases were reported from Sherwood Forest.
Key said a committee was formed in August last year to study options for dealing with the deer population. When the committee presented its findings at an annual meeting this August, residents approved the managed hunt.
"This was causing an unsafe situation in traffic and in health," Key said. "We have narrow roads that are dangerous when deer run in front of you. We don't have a lot of lawn space. The children spend a lot of time in the woods. We felt we had more [deer] than was wise and we had to deal with it."
The four-day hunt -- scheduled for Dec. 2, 6, 8 and 10 -- will be confined to safety zones within a 200-acre parcel along Sherwood Forest Road as it approaches homes. It is the least populated area of the community, Key said.
Only 12 hunters, chosen by lottery, will be allowed each day, from 30 minutes before dawn until 2 p.m. They will be required to use tree stands, which they must provide.
Applicants are required to have completed a hunter safety course and a shooting proficiency test, and must use shotguns with rifled slugs, according to DNR.
DNR will post signs in the community well before shooting begins, and residents also will be notified. All regular hunting rules apply, including prohibition of using firearms near homes.
Although a target harvest of 20 to 25 deer might not reduce the numbers enough to solve the problem for Sherwood Forest this year (surviving does will likely reproduce in the spring, having one to three fawns each), DNR officials said they're most concerned about keeping the hunt safe for residents.
"I'd rather be conservative in order to introduce the concept to the community and in order to demonstrate we can do this in a safe and efficient way," said Paul Peditto, DNR hunt manager.