Loch Raven overflowing ... with deer

Outdoors

July 20, 2008|By CANDUS THOMSON

To the folks who don't want to extend the bow deer-hunting season at Baltimore's reservoirs to include Loch Raven, here's a suggestion: Take a hike.

Walk the woods around Loch Raven, the closest-in of the city's three reservoirs, and then take a comparison stroll at Liberty or Prettyboy.

At the urging of a friend, I did just that last Monday. The woods are lovely, dark and deep at the latter two, where bow hunters have been thinning the herd for more than three decades. Not so much at Loch Raven, where Bambi and Co. have stripped the vegetative cupboard bare. The "browse line," that is, how high up the trees deer have nibbled, is way over my 5-foot-tall frame.

Deer have done to Loch Raven's lush underbrush and saplings what my dear dad used to do to the shrubs with the Sears "Defoliator" hedge clipper.

I'm not blaming the critters. They gotta eat, the pickin's are slim, and deer don't do takeout.

So for the animals, it's either go hungry or expand their range ("Hello, Goucher College.")

Blame the humans on two levels.

First, Baltimore officials never should have prohibited bow hunting at Loch Raven. When hunting was authorized at Liberty and Prettyboy, officials knew there wouldn't be much resistance in rural Baltimore County, a jurisdiction that has more licensed hunters than any other in the state. But they probably anticipated a fight over Loch Raven, a suburb of Towson, and decided to avoid the unpleasantness.

Now, in an area that can feed and house about 100 does and bucks, 800 roam. That turned out well, don't you think?

Faced with overwhelming evidence of an overwhelming deer population three years ago, city officials finally - pardon the expression - bit the bullet and decided to thin out their burgeoning deer farm. County officials also realized that if they didn't act, deer might take over the County Council, not that that's necessarily a bad thing.

But both parties chickened out after hunting haters made scary faces and threatened to be really mad.

This time, it appears that officials have rented or borrowed a spine and vowed to go through with some kind of hunt, although we'll hold our applause until after the public meeting next month.

Because just as sure as God made little blue crabs, the hunting haters will be back. They've already cranked up their story machine to the spin cycle with yarns of deer with arrows stuck in their eyeballs (already popular with some online chatters) or in their necks (another favorite) or woods carpeted so thickly with spent arrows that you'd swear you were at the Little Bighorn.

Why, reporters and the public already have been spun by Gerda Deterer, executive director of Wildlife Rescue, that Loch Raven is a "park" that "is supposed to be a sanctuary."

Wrong on both counts.

Loch Raven is a watering hole for 2 million residents that the City of Baltimore allows to be used for recreation. When deer eat all the vegetation, land erodes, and the runoff enters the reservoir. Because we turn on the tap instead of getting down on all fours to sip our water, runoff matters.

Besides, the disingenuous "park" tactic was at the center of failed efforts two years ago to derail an archery hunt at Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area, where deer have nibbled endangered and rare plants to death.

The primary purpose of Soldiers Delight - and you can check it yourself at the DNR Web site - is to protect and restore those plants, not to be used by the neighborhood as a dog run, a backyard extension and who knows what else. If deer eat the plants, something has to go: abundant deer or rare plants. I vote for the deer. We'll make more deer next year.

DNR ran a scaled-back bow hunt at Soldiers Delight that netted 24 deer. But the lesson learned during managed hunts at Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area in Cecil County held true in Baltimore County. If deer feel pressured and have a place to go, they'll take refuge until danger passes.

As a result, per-mile deer density at Soldiers Delight remains at about the same level as Loch Raven. The deer continue to eat. That hunt should be expanded - a topic for another week.

Deterer and her crowd want Baltimore to locate all the little saplings at Loch Raven, a 10-square-mile area, and shroud them in individual deer-proof fences (cost unknown) or dart the does with contraceptives (unworkable except in confined areas, where deer can be monitored and tracked) or something else that will come to them in a dream.

But in these economic times, with high food prices and tight budgets both at home and in government, the cheapest and best option is to let hunters do what they do best.

The winners are ...

Congratulations to the winners of the Pasadena Sportfishing Group's fishing derby for young anglers. The event at Downs Park on July 12 attracted more than 60 participants.

In the 5- to 8-year-old category, the winners were: First place, Durant Tabron, 7, 7 1/2 -inch white perch, seven fish total; second place, Kevin Davis, 6, 7 1/4 -inch white perch, five fish; third place, Justin Boughan, 5, 7-inch croaker, seven fish.

In the 9- to 13-year-old group the winners were: First place, Drew Seegers, 10, 9-inch white perch, four fish total; second place, Daniel Hood, 10, 8-inch bluefish, six fish; third place, John Lewis, 9, 8-inch white perch, six fish.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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