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Montgomery Parks Plans Hunting Operations in 46 Parks This Year To Thin Deer Herds

Archers, shotgun hunters, police sharpshooters participate in population control program

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Montgomery Parks

Sharpshooters, shotgun hunters and archers will be culling deer herds in 46 parks in Montgomery County in the upcoming year.

Montgomery Parks released its scheduled of park closures for deer population management operations from September through March 2019. The 22-year-old program is meant to control deer overpopulation, which can lead to deer-automobile accidents, damage to the environment and the spread of disease.

“Our deer population management efforts are intended to address these matters of public safety, natural resources protection, and other concerns of county residents. Across all program elements, the safety of residents remains our top priority,” Ryan Butler, a wildlife ecologist for Montgomery Parks, said in a news release.

In some places, qualified, pre-screened archers or shotgun hunters are allowed to cull deer under the oversight of Montgomery Parks staff. The archery hunt runs from September through January in four locations and does not force a park closure. Lottery-based shotgun hunting happens in 10 parks, which are closed to the public for 24-hour periods while the shooting activity is going on.

In 29 parks from January through March, certified Park Police sharpshooters will work overnight – when the parks are typically closed anyway – to thin the deer herds.

The bow-hunting program was the subject of a lawsuit filed by a Bethesda resident who argued the practice constitutes animal cruelty because deer are sometimes wounded but not killed by arrows. Judges in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals last year ruled against the woman, saying bow hunting is legal in Maryland and that the park system’s program is permissible so long as hunters follow all relevant laws and regulations.

Parks officials added bow hunting to their deer management program in 2015, and they reported the wounding rate was 7 percent and 3 percent over the first two seasons of the archery pilot program.

Officials say the deer management program has removed 18,000 deer from the county’s parks over the past couple decades, and police sharpshooters have donated more than 290,000 pounds of venison to the Capital Area Food Bank to date.

Several parks are joining the deer management program this year – a section of Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park in Aspen Hill and Silver Spring, a section of Sligo Creek Stream Valley Park in Silver Spring and areas of Watts Branch Stream Valley Park in Potomac.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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