Balto. County neighborhood divided over deer fences

Height of some barriers in area of Owings Mills exceeds the legal limit

Planning Board to do study

November 11, 2002|By Justin Beck | Justin Beck,SUN STAFF

Nobody knows better than Barbara Holdridge how big a nuisance deer can be.

Holdridge spends much of her free time tending to the garden at her home on Caves Road in the lush Green Spring Valley area of Owings Mills.

Like many residents there, she decided she had had enough of the local deer population after spending thousands of dollars on Lyme disease vaccinations, landscaping and repairs to damaged vehicles.

So Holdridge put up an 8-foot electric fence capable of sending a 4,650-volt shock - a fence that violates Baltimore County zoning regulations for side and back yards.

Zoning laws set the height limit at 6 feet - a height that deer can jump. But Holdridge found the higher fence to be more effective in keeping deer at bay, and so have her neighbors, many of whom have put up fences of their own.

While many others in the Caves Road area agree deer are a problem, not everyone thinks fences are the answer because they force the animals onto the street, where they can be hit by motorists.

When someone complained anonymously to the county about the fences, the county Planning Board agreed to conduct a study to explore the best way to control deer on the two-lane street dotted with expensive homes and stately trees.

"I was frustrated with seeing as much as 10 deer having a great time turning my garden into a wasteland, but that wasn't what really motivated me to get the fence," Holdridge said.

"I have a tenant who has found deer ticks [which transmit Lyme disease] on her young son on more than one occasion. I didn't want to let that continue to happen," she said.

County Councilmen Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville Democrat, and T. Bryan McIntire, a north county Republican, both pushed for the study.

But the council members disagree on the value of fences.

"I want to make it very clear, that I want to move forward with legislation to allow for deer fences," said Kamenetz. "Deer are a major problem in the area and it is something we need to address."

McIntire, however, says fences are a short-term solution and don't get at the main issue. He says that because the deer population is growing - an assertion supported by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources - a better solution would be for an individual, or the county, to try to develop a cost-efficient way to sterilize the deer.

"Everybody loves Bambi, deer are elegant and everyone loves to see them, but they are dangerous in reality, and they are dangerous to more than just shrubbery," said McIntire.

It's not clear when the Planning Board's study will be completed.

"The deer fences help keep deer out of that individuals' property, but they do make it harder for deer to get around. They force the deer onto other people's property and in some cases it contributes to deer getting caught in the street," said Anthony Glasser, a Caves Road resident.

Several fence owners say it is not uncommon to see deer that were deterred by the fences later lying by the side of the road after being struck by a vehicle. Even so, of the 10 vehicular accidents reported on Caves Road last year, none were deer-related, said a spokesman for the county Police Department.

Holdridge who has fenced off 22 acres of her 32-acre property, says her fence is set back 35 feet from the road to prevent just such an occurrence.

Even the residents who complain about the height of deer fences on Caves Road say that while the structures are not attractive, they are the only proven way to keep deer off of residents' property.

Elizabeth Goldsborough, who has lived on Caves Road for 43 years, thinks deer are beautiful. But the population has grown so much over the past five years that she decided reluctantly put a 10-foot deer fence around her vegetable garden.

"I don't have a deer fence around my entire property, mainly because I can't afford one," said Goldsborough. "I like seeing the deer, but there just isn't much they don't like to eat."

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