Montgomery Parks has approved a pilot project to allow archery hunters into two county parks to hunt and kill deer.
The Pilot Archery Managed Deer Hunting Program elicited almost 400 comments from the public since it was announced in early July. It will be the first time the parks department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, will use archers to cull the county’s deer population.
The archery program will use pre-approved hunters from the public to take part in managed hunts over a combined area of 733 acres in the Watts Branch Stream Valley Park in Potomac and one section of the Great Seneca Valley Stream Park in Germantown. The hunts will run from September to November and again in January 2016.
For years the county has overseen deer hunts using Park Police sharpshooters and hunters with firearms, arguing that the county’s deer overpopulation problem leads to deer-involved car accidents, higher rates of Lyme disease and harmful health effects within deer herds.
In most cases, Montgomery Parks has got a healthy majority of residents’ support for those hunts.
Montgomery Parks said Wednesday that people who weighed in on the archery hunts supported the pilot project but “by a slight margin.”
“Those in opposition shared concern for potential excessive wounding and suffering by way of archery hunting,” read an announcement that the project has been approved. “The goal of every managed hunting program is to experience no wounding loss. With that in mind, the Department recognizes that perfection is unlikely.”
Montgomery Parks said that it hopes to minimize wounding and suffering of the deer through a thorough selection and training process for participants. It also said unintended deer injuries happen in non-lethal deer management, including in immunocontraception and surgical sterilization programs.
“It may also be worth noting that, in every case, deer experience some level of trauma at death; whether by natural causes or by accidents,” read the announcement.
Bill Hamilton, a natural resources specialist for Montgomery Parks, said last month that a 2014 survey found a deer population of about 67 to 84 deer per square mile in the Watts Branch Park. The Parks Department has said a deer population of 30 or fewer per square mile reduces vehicle crashes, Lyme disease cases and other impacts to “acceptable levels.”
Hunting will be restricted to a distance of at least 130 yards from homes and a maximum of six hunters will be allowed at each park location a day. To qualify, hunters must have completed the state’s hunter education and safety course and a course from the National Bowhunter Education Foundation. Those interested in taking part in the hunts must provide a resume outlining their group hunting experience and written, verifiable references.