Deer hunts will help control overpopulation

Local,Josh Kowalkowski
Howard County soon will begin managed deer hunts in seven locations to maintain a stable deer population while improving the habitat, county officials said.

Habitat quality and vegetation in many parks have noticeably improved since the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks program began in 1998, said county spokesman Kevin Enright.

Parks with the most improvements are:
  • Alpha Ridge Park
  • David Force Park
  • High Ridge Park
  • Middle Patuxent Environmental Area.
“We manage it because of overpopulation,” said Philip Norman, the county’s deer project manager.

“In our current suburban environment, with parks and a scattering of agricultural land, deer are breeding at a rate that isn’t in balance with their mortality.”

Deer also survive longer partly because some of their predators, including wolves and mountain lions, haven’t adapted to the landscape, which used to be more rural, Norman explained.

An infrared camera in a plane is one of the tools used to calculate deer density. The most recent flyover covered about 13 1/2 square miles and located 667 deer, which translated into an average density of about 50 deer per square mile, Norman said.

The goal with the managed hunts is to cover between 15 and 25 per square miles, he said.

The first managed deer hunts, which will include bow and shotgun hunting, will begin Oct. 13 at Schooley Mill Park, with hunting hours from dawn until noon.

Other hunting grounds to begin later in the fall and winter are:
  • Alpha Ridge Park
  • Blandair Park
  • David Force Park
  • High Ridge Park
  • Middle Patuxent Environmental Area
  • The North Laurel area.
Not everyone, though, believes this deer management is appropriate.

“It is our belief that lethal control is not only ethically objectionable but is also ineffective, particularly in the long term,” according to a statement from Animal Advocates of Howard County as provided by Jennifer Grill, the group’s wildlife spokeswoman.

 “The key to successful conflict resolution usually involves modifying human behavior.”

In addition to the managed hunts, the county also has a night sharpshooter program for hunters where managed hunts aren’t possible, but also manages the deer population, officials said.

The sharpshooter schedule is still being finalized.
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