2016 | News

PETA Member Appeals Court Decision Allowing Deer Hunt

Organization argues bow hunting violates Maryland cruelty code

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Montgomery County Parks

Eilene Cohhn, who was the plaintiff in a losing case to halt Montgomery County’s use of bow hunting to manage the deer population, filed an appeal Friday with the Court of Special Appeals, Maryland’s second highest court.

Cohhn, a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), had sued in September 2015 charging that the county’s “Pilot Archery Managed Deer Hunting Program” violated Maryland’s cruelty code.

In August, Circuit Court Judge Steven G. Salant issued a summary judgment against Cohhn and PETA.

Patrick Lacefield, spokesman for County Executive Ike Leggett, had no comment.

PETA lawyer Jenni James said the crossbow error rate, that is the percentage of deer that are wounded instead of killed, is 7 percent, which is seven times higher than the error rate for sharpshooters, at 1 percent.

Such a high percentage, she said, means the deer “suffered unnecessary and unjustifiable pain.”

Under the county’s archery program, hunters use bows and crossbows to kill deer in Montgomery County parks because of regulations prohibiting the discharging of firearms at Watts Branch Stream Valley Park in Potomac and Great Seneca Stream Valley Park in Germantown.

The archery season for deer in Montgomery County began Sept. 9 and will run through Jan. 31.

Jeff Kerr, PETA’s general counsel, released this statement:

“With bow-hunting season underway, hunters are once again lurking in tree stands, ready to destroy deer families, kill lactating does and their young, and send steel arrows tearing through the flesh of these animals, who then endure slow, agonizing deaths.

“The only way to curb the deer population,” he continued, “is by reducing the food available to them—not by cruelly killing them year after year. Ms. Cohhn will not stop fighting for deer, and PETA encourages Montgomery County residents who care about animals to ask their county council to bring an end to this waste of tax dollars.”

James, the PETA lawyer, in an interview in September called the county’s bow hunting program “a cruel, inefficient killing cycle.”

She said the county’s bow hunting program last year killed 84 deer—a dozen were fawns and three were nursing mothers. Seven were wounded and their bodies never found. One mature buck was hit twice by two different hunters two weeks apart, she said.

“Lethal methods just don’t work. They make the problem worse,” James said.

When animals are killed or otherwise removed, more move in and they breed at accelerated rate, she said.

The county parks department has hunted deer for 19 years because their numbers present health and safety issues to the county—increased deer pose a threat to roadways and they are a carrier of Lyme Disease. A 2014 survey found 67 to 84 deer per square mile in Watts Branch Stream Valley Park in Potomac. The parks department says deer-involved vehicle crashes and cases of Lyme disease drop when the population density is 30 or fewer deer per square mile.

In seeking public comment on the archery hunts, residents have said they want expanded efforts to manage the deer population, Bill Hamilton, principal natural resources specialist for Montgomery Parks, said in August.

“We have determined archery managed hunts are a safe, lawful and effective way to address these requests in areas where firearms would create a greater risk,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton acknowledged deer kills are an emotional issue for some.

“We respect the opinions of all organizations and individuals, and recognize the issue of deer management is one that many people are passionate about,” he said.

Cohhn is being represented by PETA’s in-house counsel, as well as Meyer, Glitzenstein & Eubanks of Washington.