Parks: Deer Management Program Having Limited Effect

Parks: Deer Management Program Having Limited Effect

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Vehicle-deer collisions are up in Montgomery County and officials say an expansive police sharpshooting program to combat deer overpopulation might have reached the limits of its effectiveness.

In a conversation of the Parks Department’s Deer Management Program set for Tuesday at the County Council, Parks officials in charge of the effort are expected to describe how limited access to private property and parks close to private property mean “a paradigm shift” is required.

Each winter, Park Police sharpshooters have managed deer hunts in more than 30 parks around the county.

Last year, Parks added Cabin John Regional Park to its program, saying the area of Bethesda, Rockville and Potomac had nearly four times the recommended density of deer for an area of its size. That led to deer-related car accidents, damage to natural resources and a higher potential for Lyme disease, Parks said.

Parks officials said the Cabin John hunt was a success, with 63 deer “harvested.” It will be part of this winter’s deer management program.

But in 2013, there were 2,146 deer-vehicle collisions in the county, one of the consequences of deer overpopulation the hunts are intended to negate. The number has been increasingly steadily since hitting a low of 1,841 in 2008 and surpasses the previous higher of 2,127 in 2002.

Parks officials say the reason for it is that deer populations generally don’t travel very far outside of their specific areas.

The average number of deer-vehicle collisions per square mile within a quarter-mile of parkland was 10.9 for parks with no deer management and 3.4 for parks with managed deer hunts, an average reduction of 69 percent where the hunts are happening.

“The County deer program has made great progress since it was initiated, but continued forward progress will require a paradigm shift. The leadership role for expanding countywide management, now held by the M-NCPPC Department of Parks, will decline as most public lands come under management and will need to shift to other entities, as yet unidentified, better situated to implement and fund traditional and nontraditional management on private property,” according to a Parks report.

The county recently pushed for a change to state law that allows archery hunting of deer up to 100 yards from a house, instead of the previous 150 yards. That will provide “a small opportunity” for more managed hunts, Parks officials said, but more partnerships are needed, especially in the case of public golf courses, future school sites and federal land such as the C&O National Historical Park.
“Most of the remaining public lands in the County, however, are very narrow and current regulations greatly restrict traditional management tools. New methods including archery might expand parkland management somewhat but at best this will still leave most of the developed portions of the county, 80% of which is private land, unmanaged,” read the report.
Parks began a deer hunt in a Chevy Chase section of Rock Creek Park in 2012 and got support from the vast majority of surrounding residents who chimed in. Parks said it got a similar amount of support for the Cabin John hunt.
Flickr photo by John Dylan O’Leary

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