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Efforts to curb deer population in Montgomery County falling flat

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Local,Maryland,Transportation,Kate Jacobson,Montgomery County,Metro and Traffic

Montgomery County's deer managers told county lawmakers Thursday that their efforts to reduce the ever-growing deer population are not working as well as expected.

Sharpshooters have bagged 30 deer during each controlled hunt in Sligo Creek and Rock Creek parks, but those efforts aren't thinning out the herds nearly enough.

Rob Gibbs, natural resources manager for the county Department of Parks and chairman of the Deer Management Program, said the hunts have been able to somewhat control the deer population in the upper parts of the county, but the deer have migrated south to the suburban wooded areas near Bethesda, Potomac and Silver Spring.

What happens to Bambi?
State law requires that all deer killed in organized hunts to control the population must be salvaged. After hunters bag a deer, each hunter is allowed to keep some meat for themselves. The other meat is donated to area soup kitchens and food pantries. According to Montgomery County, hunters in 2011-12 donated 8,880 pounds of venison to the Capital Area Food Bank.

Auto crashes involving deer has stayed consistent, hovering above 2,000 accidents a year since 2000. In 2012, there were 2,019 reported crashes, down from the 2,038 in 2011.

Jeremy Criss, agricultural services manager of the County's Department of Economic Development, said adding bow hunters could greatly help in tight creek-lined parks where houses are so close together.

The county's deer managers are pushing for a change to state law that would allow bow hunters to shoot up to 50 yards from houses instead of the current 150-yard regulation.

Hunting near homes and recreation areas presents a challenge itself no matter how far the hunters might be from the actual houses -- notifying neighbors and clearing out parks of people requires a highly coordinated effort, Gibbs said.

Organized hunts occur at night from October to January; the majority are held in November and December, with as many as 15 hunts per month. The county prescreens hunters who want to participate in the program.

Councilman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville, said he wanted to expand the program to another park -- which costs anywhere from $25,000 to $30,000.

The program is looking at various sites in the downcounty region to forge new hunts, including near Cabin John and in the Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park.

Councilman Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, said many of his constituents have raised concerns about the growing deer population. He once had a collision with a deer while driving when he was living in Potomac.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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