Deer kill in my back yard; Stevenson permit: Bow hunt in a suburban back yard seems like a risky, ineffective solution.


HUNTS TO cull deer herds are nothing new in Maryland. Scheduling a managed hunt in a 2 1/2-acre suburban yard, however, is new -- and troubling, too.

Maryland hunters killed a record 73,570 deer last year and slowed the growth of the population in rural areas, but naturalists say the number of deer migrating to the outer suburbs continues unabated. Free from hunters, these herds feast on suburban landscaping. Tired of losing her plants to ravenous deer, a Stevenson resident, Paula Farbman, applied for and received a permit for a hunt with bow and arrows, not firearms, in her yard.

Bowhunting is an effective and acceptable control tool in areas on the fringes of suburbia. Last year, bow hunters downed 16,300 deer, also a record.

But the effectiveness of a hunt in a single yard is questionable. It threatens the safety of neighbors and passers-by. Even if Ms. Farbman hires exceptionally skilled hunters, they can hunt only in her Baltimore County yard. They won't be able to chase the deer into neighbors' lots or down the street.

Over time, deer learn to avoid hunters. If the managed hunt merely steers deer from Ms. Farbman's yard, it will only increase the population in her neighborhood. They will eventually return to her yard.

Hunts in suburbia are problematic. Last winter, a managed hunt in Howard County's Middle Patuxent Environmental Area was canceled to allow further study. County Executive James N. Robey has resumed plans for a hunt this year.

Animal rights activists urge the use of contraceptives for reducing deer populations, but these methods are not likely to prove any more successful in the suburbs than they have been in rural areas. Perhaps the only effective, and universally acceptable, method to discourage suburban herds is for homeowners to landscape with plants that deer dislike.

Pub Date: 10/12/99

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