Deer hunting set at Loch Raven

Herd's damage to reservoir area prompts culling, to begin Sept. 15

August 29, 2008|By Kevin Rector | Kevin Rector,kevin.rector@baltsun.com

To hunt or not to hunt is no longer a question. The overabundant deer population in the forests around Loch Raven Reservoir will be culled by hunters for the first time this fall and winter, state and local officials said at a public meeting on the much-debated issue last night at Loch Raven High School.

About 225 people filled the school auditorium to hear officials outline the new hunting policy, which animal rights activists have successfully blocked for years.

The deer inhabit an area that can't support the current population, said Kurt Kocher, a spokesman for the Baltimore Department of Public Works. The city owns the reservoir, which is in Baltimore County.

The deer are eating too many of the young plants and trees that the forest depends on for regeneration, degrading the quality of the reservoir's water and hurting other wildlife by destroying their habitats.

And, Kocher said, they are responsible for a number of car accidents.

State Department of Natural Resources, county and city officials gave a 30-minute presentation outlining the reasons for allowing city-sponsored bowhunting in the northern parts of the reservoir between Sept. 15 and Jan. 31, and county-sponsored sharpshooting in southern areas this winter. Then, people on both sides of the issue got a chance to speak.

Though David Carroll, the county's director of sustainability, said the purpose of the meeting "was not to get into the pros and cons" of hunting but to respond to technical questions, hunters in camouflage - who made up a majority of the audience - and activists opposed to the hunt, argued their cases. Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife scientist with the Humane Society of the United States, called into question the idea that hunting is "the only practical solution to this problem of overpopulation."

Boyles suggested that had activists been included in discussions on the issue, more "lasting, humane, environmental solutions" could have been found.

Enid Feinberg, a founder of the group Deer Solutions MD that successfully derailed a similar culling plan for the Loch Raven herd three years ago, said bowhunting had left wounded, suffering deer on her property in Phoenix.

Steve Kirk, a bowhunter from Towson, said hunters are unfairly stereotyped as "bloodthirsty rednecks" simply because "if you see someone in camouflage carrying a bow into the woods, it might be easy to think you know who he is."

Many hunters said they would help restore the environment, and officials agreed.

The new hunting policy will allow hunting at Loch Raven Reservoir for the first time in its history. Similar hunting has proved successful at Prettyboy and Liberty reservoirs for 35 years, officials said.

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