View Full Version : Too many deer; not enough hunters?

Col. Mustard
December 8, 2002, 12:45 PM
This appears in today's (12/8) Washington Times (I had to cut out some to make it fit):


Too many deer
By S.A. Miller

Yews stripped of evergreen needles, bushes picked clean of rose and azalea buds, pansies nipped to the stem and thousands of carcass littering the roadways. The evidence is everywhere that the white-tailed deer has taken a toll on the Washington area and most of the East Coast.

They destroy nearly $1 billion worth of U.S. crops, timber and landscaping annually. And each year they cause most of the 500,000 animal-related vehicle accidents that result in about 100 fatalities and $2.5 billion in damages.
Wildlife officials from Maryland and Virginia acknowledge that they have had little success in reducing the deer population, despite making it a priority for more than a decade.
Allowing hunters to shoot and kill deer is considered the easiest and least-expensive method to reduce the population. Though it works in rural Virginia and Maryland, the method is impractical in the District and the suburbs, where man and deer live side by side.
As many as 60 deer per square mile inhabit some parts of Northern Virginia, though about 18 per square mile is the optimal number.
"We have not been successful in the last five years," said Matt Knox, deer program supervisor for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "We are not meeting our management-reduction goal."
One reason is that deer in the suburbs are protected from hunters. And government programs such as Maryland's Open Space provides them with an eden of trees, shrubs, gardens and flower beds.
"Suburbia is actually very good deer habitat, unfortunately for us," said Brian Eyler, a deer biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "It makes our job a lot harder."
There were 4,229 crashes between vehicles and deer in Maryland last year, each incident costing motorists $2,000 to $8,000. Nearly half of them happened in Montgomery County, while Charles County was a distant second, with 413.
In 1999, the state had 2,973 such crashes. Montgomery County had the most: 2,033.
Virginia had 6,030 such collisions in 2001, and Loudoun County led the commonwealth with 283. The number was 4,727 in 2000, a 28 percent increase, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Damage in Maryland and Virginia last year for deer-related accidents totaled about $50 million.
Wildlife officials agree that regulated hunting is the best way to thin the deer population and have recently encouraged hunters to kill more female deer because most other methods are too expensive or impractical.

They also say that reintroducing bobcats and wolves as natural deer predators is too dangerous and unproven.
As proof that hunting is the best method, Maryland wildlife officials point out that in 1996 more than 100 deer were killed by cars in and around Seneca Creek State Park near Gaithersburg. But when they opened the park the following year, hunters killed 134 deer and the number of deer killed on the roads dropped to 50.
Hunters killed 50 deer in the park last year, and eight were struck by cars.
In some suburban settings, authorities have taken the drastic step of allowing bow hunting in public parks. When Barboursville, W.Va., officials started a special bow season last week in a community park, about 300 hunters stalked through woods not far from hikers and other visitors.
"We've got to find ways to increase the harvest of female deer," said Mr. Knox, the Virginia deer specialist.
In Virginia a hunter can kill one female deer a day during the bow, firearm or muzzleloader season.
Virginia hunters killed 214,890 deer last year, a roughly 15 percent increase from the 2000 total of 187,170.
Wildlife officials know that many hunters want to stalk the bigger, more majestic bucks and that many feel uneasy about killing female deer. But they say education programs have steadily increased the number of does killed.
Some avid hunters still complain about the cost of hunting licenses and the strict rules that can result in fines.
"You charged me $50 to do a job the state should do," hunter Dave Gordon told wildlife official Mr. Eyler at a recent deer-management seminar.
Mr. Eyler replied that licensing fees pay for most of the state's hunting programs.
Mr. Gordon, who hunts in all seasons in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, also complained about a $120 fine a game warden wrote him for hunting 15 feet inside the 150-yard no-hunting zone around houses.
He said the homeowner "wanted me to kill every deer in sight because they were eating up everything in her yard."
Yet the biggest obstacle to deer control in Maryland is the dwindling number of hunters.
"Too many kids are sitting home playing deer hunter on the computer," Mr. Eyler said.
Since the 1970s, the number of licensed hunters in Maryland has declined from about 180,000 to about 140,000. The number of hunters younger than 16 has also dropped significantly — from a peak of about 23,000 in the 1970s to about 7,000 in the early 1990s, wildlife officials say.
The state recently instituted a special "Junior Hunt" day typically held two weeks before the start of the regular season, which permits hunting exclusively for those younger than 16 and accompanied by an adult.
This and other programs have shown some early success because the number of licensed junior hunters has increased in recent years to about 9,600. Officials say the young hunters are key in changing the trend; 3.4 percent of Marylanders hunt, compared with the national average of 7 percent, 19 percent in West Virginia and 10 percent in Pennsylvania.
Still, wildlife officials know that the problems associated with suburban deer are not going away anytime soon.
"Suburban deer are going to be on the radar a long time," Mr. Eyler said. "It's going to be an issue in this state forever."

December 8, 2002, 04:36 PM
Did my part again yesterday.

Hopefully will do it again next weekend.

I'll take 3-4 a year dividing the meat up to those in my family that want it. They pay for the butchering.

There is a need for more hunters and longer seasons. I hunt bow and firearm seasons. I get 2 weeks of firearms and about 5 months of bow. (Maryland)

Five months sounds like a lot but when you can only get out there on Saturdays those 5 months go buy quickly.

December 9, 2002, 04:51 PM
I've been able to get only ONE day of deer firearms season this year! I can really only hunt saturdays, and since the opener was over my Thanksgiving holiday, I had to be out of state and missed it.
There are several problems with deer populations around here. The deer that I have hit have been during summer months, while they were nibbling on roadside greenery in the middle of the night (hint to VA-DoT- whenever you trim the roadside shrubbery it brings more deer in to the roadside and causes more accidents). VA public land is pathetic as far as habitat. They need to actively work to draw deer into the public lands. Currently, the deer populations where public land is present are relatively low, while the deer populations in the eastern part of the state are way too high. Another problem is the distribution of hunters. There simply aren't enough hunters in the eastern suburbs. Furthermore, these deer are in areas that, barring special hunts, hunters are pretty much forbidden from entering. I'd really like to see VA's DGIF do more to help arrange hunts on private land. Perhaps a sort of "contract arrangement", almost as if we were exterminators. Hunters could sign up, and would be connected with landowners who complained about excess deer.

Art Eatman
December 9, 2002, 10:04 PM
Okay: The problem is too many deer.

PETA people know all about animals; at least, that's what they tell us. Okay. Publicly request they provide a solution that costs no tax dollars. After all, hunting costs no tax dollars not already paid by the hunters.

Probably oughta make the same request of legislators.

:), Art

December 10, 2002, 07:54 PM
Encourage bow hunting in suburban areas