Deer management options available to state officials range from hunting to birth control.
Many animal rights groups strongly oppose hunting to control the deer problem and have loudly urged the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to use more humane methods.
But Joshua Sandt, director of the Wildlife and Heritage Division of the DNR, said hunting is the “only feasible” solution.
It’s mainly a matter of cost, he said — “Hunters are willing to do it for free.”
That’s why the DNR decided on a hunt at Sandy Point State Park in Anne Arundel County.
While Sandy Point does not have the extensive deer damage that Montgomery County’s Seneca Creek State Park has sustained, the DNR wanted “preclude that damage from occurring,” Sandt said.
A method considered but scrapped was sharpshooting, which would have cost anywhere from $74 to $275 a deer.
Fencing would have been “prohibitively costly” at the 800- acre site, Sandt said.
Some animal rights groups, including Anne Arundel County’s Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, say there is no deer problem at Sandy Point and the DNR should not allow hunting there.
Ken D’Loughy spends a lot of his time at Seneca Creek State Park handling questions about how to deal with the deer problem.
Working for the Outreach and Technical Services program of the Wildlife and Heritage Division of DNR, his office issues permits to kill deer on a certain property to alleviate problems.
According to 1995 DNR game report, 6,316 deer were killed by people holding these permits, which are not hunting licenses.
Rob Gibbs, a Montgomery County Department of Park and Planning ecologist, said deer management is expensive.
Based on scientific literature, he gave these figures for proposed deer management methods in Montgomery County:
* Fencing costs $185 to $5,000 per acre.
* Repellents cost $12 to $100 per acre, per application.
* Controlled hunts, in which the DNR controls how, when, and by whom the hunt is conducted, cost $43 to $60 per deer.
* Sharpshooting costs $74 to $235 per deer.
* Contraception costs $150 to $1,000 per deer.
* Trapping and relocating costs $113 to $570 per deer.
Gibbs stressed, however, that the location and nature of the deer problem determine which method is cost effective.
At Brookside Gardens, a botanical garden in Wheaton, fencing was the best option. “It made sense” because the area was loosing more money to deer then the fence would cost, Gibbs said.
But the cost was “significant” — over $100,000.
Gibbs office ruled out trapping and relocating deer because “there’s no place to release them.”
Dr. Allen Rutberg, senior scientist for wildlife for the Humane Society of the United States, acknowledges “a series of problems associated with deer in different areas,” but prefers other methods to hunting.
At Seneca Creek, for instance, auto accidents could be prevented with “an aggressive driver education program” and fencing to keep deer off the highways, he said.
He also advocated the use of a new reflector system that beams car headlights off the side of the road so deer can see them ahead of time. “We are hoping to work with Montgomery County to install some of these reflectors,” Rutberg said. -30-