The horns of a dilemma

Cervine surfeit: Managed hunt group could target deer problems without expanding season.

January 07, 2001

TARGETED year-round efforts to control the expanding nuisance of wild deer are a better solution than simply lengthening and liberalizing the traditional hunting season.

When hunting season ends this month, Maryland shooters and archers will likely have brought down a record 80,000 white-tail.

But the number of deer continues to rise, at least in the areas of Maryland where they pose the greatest problems, even dangers, of human contact.

The consequences include nearly 5,000 deer-auto collisions a year (with an average $2,100 repair bill plus medical costs), hundreds of Lyme disease cases and well over $40 million in crop damage.

Resurgence of the protected deer population over the past few decades has been remarkable, exceeding the wildest expectations of wildlife managers.

But human population and territory have also expanded rapidly, creating increased conflicts.

The problem is not a shortage of hunting opportunities, but an overabundance of deer. The state has raised bag limits, added more hunting days, loosened restrictions on killing reproductive does. That's done little to control the proliferation of deer. Other parts of the state's 10-year deer-management plan have yet to produce meaningful reductions.

Now a Howard County man hopes to organize a group of experienced hunters to shoot deer year-round on private land where owners have a problem. State permits are available, with safety restrictions; they are mostly used by farmers, with inconsistent results.

This approach to deer control will not appeal to all. Many people like to see an abundance of deer in their environs and oppose hunting. But if carefully managed, this seems like one reasonable way to control a wildlife problem that shows no sign of going away.

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