Reducing the herd

Managed hunts: Evidence suggests the solution to deer overpopulation is controlled hunting.

January 08, 2002

EVIDENCE IS growing that state-run managed deer hunts, like those scheduled this month in Sherwood Forest, are on target.

On Jan. 22 and 25, this waterfront residential community near Annapolis will be patrolled by hunters. Their job will be to cull the excessive deer population, which endangers drivers and threatens food supplies for other wildlife.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources conducts about 20 managed hunts statewide per year, and is finding encouraging evidence to support them.

For example, Montgomery County police found that fewer deer-related automobile accidents occurred in areas that conducted managed hunts, compared with similar areas that did not.

Also, deer munched away at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center's important crops until the center began using hunts to control the burgeoning population in the early 1990s. Now the southern Anne Arundel County center's crops are thriving again.

Three years ago, many Sherwood Forest residents shrieked at the idea of managed deer hunts in the wooded area near their homes.

Now, after two successful years of hunts, reports of deer trouble are down, and so are complaints. Opponents still argue for birth control and other experiments to control deer growth, but those methods have proved ineffective.

More progress is needed to reduce the roughly 4,000 deer-related auto accidents recorded in Maryland in 2000. Increased support for safe, managed deer hunts will lessen the danger.

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