Montgomery Parks is proposing managed archery hunts to cull the county’s booming deer population, a technique the department says will allow it to operate in areas with firearm restrictions.
The pilot Archery Managed Deer Hunting Program is being pitched for two areas of Watts Branch Stream Valley Park in Potomac and one area of the Great Seneca Stream Valley in Germantown.
If approved by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the hunts would run over a combined area of 733 acres from September to November and again in January 2016.
Bill Hamilton, a natural resources specialist for Montgomery Parks, said a 2014 survey found a deer population of about 67 to 84 deer per square mile in the Watts Branch Park.
Hamilton said deer-involved vehicle crashes, cases of Lyme disease and other deer-related impacts “are reduced to acceptable levels” when population density is at 30 deer per square mile or fewer.
The county has for years overseen a series of deer hunts using Park Police sharpshooters.
But Hamilton said regulations against the discharge of firearms and limited access in certain areas mean the department is looking for new ways to cut down on the number of deer in the county.
Hamilton pointed to similar archery deer management programs in other suburbs around the region and said there is no record of injury to non-participants or pets in any of those jurisdictions.
“In 19 years of operations, and having directly reduced the deer population by nearly 15,000 deer, we have not had one occurrence of personal injury of the public as a result of the Department’s deer management operations,” Hamilton said.
Members of the public will be allowed to take part in the archery pilot, Hamilton said, but only as members of established, insured hunting groups no larger than six people. Those groups will have to demonstrate hunter safety and education training and meet proficiency standards.
Hunting would happen from stationary, elevated positions with a limit on the distance of all shots.
The parks would remain open during the hunts. Signage would be posted at all park entrances, trailheads and key access points, similar to how Montgomery Parks operates Park Police sharpshooter hunts.
The department is accepting public comments on the proposal through July 31.