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Managed Deer Hunts Could Come to Some County Parkland

Councilman Todd Huff's bill would allow deer hunts managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.

UPDATE (9:03 p.m.)—Some Baltimore County parks could be opened to deer hunting under a bill sponsored by Republican Councilman Todd Huff.

The bill, introduced tonight, would allow deer hunting on county parkland that is authorized by the state . The county would determine which species would be hunted.

But Enid Feinberg, an opponent of similar hunts in the county, said expanding hunting into county parks creates a public safety issue.

The bill, as proposed, carries a misdemeanor charge and $100 fine for violations.

Huff said the legislation would reduce deer populations to sustainable levels and improve safety for the public.

"(The deer) destroy the vegetation and they spread Lyme disease and are the biggest cause of accidents that are driving up insurance rates," Huff said.

The bill does not specify which county parks would likely see such a hunt but it is not likely to include many of the traditional regional parks around the county.

Huff, who is not a hunter, said that while the legislation would open all county parks to managed hunts, he specifically was interested in issues related to Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville.

Some current and former county officials said that other likely spots for such hunts include large wooded areas such as in Loch Raven Watershed near Towson, and the Marshy Point Nature Center in Middle River.

"There's a lot of damage done by deer in those parks," said Vince Gardina, director of the county's Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability. "It's primarily forest damage."

Three years ago, the county closed a large portion of Oregon Ridge's popular hiking trails to the public in order to log the area and replant trees. The new saplings that were planted were protected with anti-deer wrappings.

It is not uncommon for hikers to encounter deer on the trails at Oregon Ridge or see the carcasses of deer struck by vehicles along the side of Shawan Road.

Robert Barrett, who was director of the county Department of Recreation and Parks for the last eight years, said deer problems have always been present around the park and only grew in recent years.

"There's a lot of deer up there," Barrett said, adding that hunting "is a very controversial political issue."

"About 70 percent of the people don't want to do it and the ones who do are usually part of nature conservancy groups," Barrett said.

One such opponent, Feinberg, said such hunts are obsolete and dangerous.

"We live in a modern society and we need to look for modern solutions that don't involve weapons," said Feinberg, a board member of Wildlife Rescue Inc. "It's small-minded thinking."

Feinberg said introducing hunters into public parks used by hikers is a dangerous mix.

"You're just asking for trouble," she said. "It's a blatant risk to public safety."

"I don't know what accident has to happen that will make people think that there really should be an alternative [to hunting]," Feinberg said.

Gardina said he favors a controlled hunt that uses professional hunters "rather than one that is open to the public."

"Certainly safety would have to be the primary issue here," Gardina said.

Should the bill pass, the final decision on how hunts are handled would be made by the county departments of the environment and recreation and parks in conjunction with county police and the state, Gardina said.

Currently, county law prohibits discharging a firearm, pellet gun or crossbow within the metropolitan district—essentially the county's most urban areas.

The state manages deer hunts in all three city-owned reservoir watersheds. Loch Raven Reservoir was the last of those to be hunted in 2008.

Additionally, the county has paid for professional hunters to harvest deer from the Loch Raven Reservoir watershed. The harvested deer were donated to food banks.

And while there have been some minor complaints about hunters wandering out of the boundaries where hunting is allowed, there have been no major incidents involving the managed hunts.

What is not clear is whether the state already has the ability to authorize a hunt without Huff's bill.

"I think they can do it now," said Barrett. "I think all the county would need to do is send the state a letter and ask for it."

Huff said he has also heard that the state might be able to authorize a hunt without the county law. He said he has not yet spoken with state officials to confirm if that was true.

"I think this bill is just to cover everyone's butt regarding the use of a firearm on county-owned land," Huff said.

officials were not immediately available for comment.

The bill is scheduled for discussion at the council's April 26 work session. A final vote is scheduled for May 2.

charles dibley April 27, 2011 at 05:22 PM
I have been hunting since i was a child. Every year i donate at least 2 deer to the Hunters feeding the Homeless and Hungry program. (that may not be the exact name of it now) That equates to around 175 pounds of food. The deer are suffering due to the over population and limited food supply. The best, and most humane method to protect them, is to effectively manage them, and the harvest of the deer. This will produce healthier deer and protect not only the deer, but those that drive in heavily populated deer areas where hunting is not allowed. It is my feeling that if this were to be allowed to hunt in the parks, it should be properly managed, the park could be closed on a weekday when the visitor numbers are at the lowest point. Also, any deer harvested should be donated to the homeless and needy families in Maryland. I am an "ETHICAL" hunter. what that means to me is something I am teaching my children who want to hunt. I do not want any animal to suffer, ethical hunting takes years of practice. To kill an animal as efficiently as possible so the animal does not suffer is very important to me. This is ethical hunting. If the parks were to open to hunting, I would PROUDLY stand in line to help feed hungry people in Maryland and to do my part to help protect drivers from hitting the deer, possibly injuring and causing undue suffering to the animal. Charles Dibley
Brandon Provenzano October 29, 2011 at 04:53 PM
Why can't they do hunting in double rock park?stemmers run connects too other watersheds and double rock park is one of the main places where the deer have been going.We can have controlled hunts with the help of dnr and only use bow for the saftey of the public.Limes disease is now terrible because of the rising deer populations in the park.also I am starting to see them on the highway and that could be a serious problem for the public.The crops in the garden area are devastated from this problem.You are more likley to hit a deer than get shot by a hunter.we can have hunts only when the park is closed.There is no point of steralization they will only populate from a different area and cause more problems.So this is how we should control this problem.It would also put more meat on the table.we cant keep ignoring this problem.It will only get worse.
Bob Cross October 29, 2011 at 08:21 PM
I would rather have my daughter spend her time afield learning about our natural world than sitting in front of a video monitor hacking away at a keyboard. None of my family members or friends are slob hunters. WE are the stewards of the land and the wildlife that inhabits it. We are the ones who help others learn about the woods, the water, and the wildlife. The fees we are charged pay park rangers and DNR biologist. Another thing that the un-informed may not know is that "managed" hunts are managed for safety and control. I will admit that there are criminals who break laws and steal from all of us. I have a proposal to make to help the whitetail population. Lets introduce a tax to be paid by every Maryland citizen who doesn't purchase a hunting license to go into the DNR's budget towards paying for the non-lethal methods. That will give the DNR the money to fund the program and everyone will be happy.
Robert Armstrong October 29, 2011 at 08:48 PM
LOL "Stewards of the land" What a bunch of phony baloney! A real steward of the land wouldn't be all about killing the largest or the oldest of the breed just for the size of the rack. A steward of the land would leave it to breed other strong stock. A real steward of the land wouldn't kill does or fawns either.
Bob Cross October 29, 2011 at 09:36 PM
If you want to control the whitetail population you must control the fertile doe population, not the buck population. Does outnumber males, and when a buck is "removed" naturally or otherwise, another takes over the breeding responsibilities.

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