Hunters in four Howard County parks have killed 176 deer - including two bucks weighing over 200 pounds each - during the annual managed hunts aimed at reducing local deer populations.
With 11 days of hunting left, Philip C. Norman, deer hunting project director for the county Department of Recreation and Parks, said the final tally probably will nearly equal the 200 animals taken last year in five parks. The final day of the hunt is Feb. 14.
"I think we'll be very close," he said.
County officials began allowing controlled hunts in county parks in late 1999 to help control the overpopulation of deer that they blame for destroying low foliage, spreading Lyme disease and posing a traffic hazard.
Statewide, Maryland hunters killed 43,455 deer during the two-week firearms season that ended Dec. 11, according to state Department of Natural Resources statistics.
Despite assertions from county officials that their hunts are working and are the only viable way to reduce damage and danger caused by the deer, Ann Selnick, president of Animal Advocates of Howard County, said there is another motive.
"These agencies are intentionally promoting and perpetuating the declining 'sport' of hunting," she said. Only 5 percent of the population hunts, she said, but hunters represent much of the revenue for state wildlife agencies.
In Howard County, Norman killed 14 deer at the Alpha Ridge Landfill, where hunters generally are not permitted because the land is not open to the public, he said.
Forty-six deer have been taken at the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area in Clarksville; 36 at David Force Park in Marriottsville; and 35 at Alpha Ridge, including the landfill and the park next door, plus those taken at Blandair.
High Ridge Park along the Patuxent River was not hunted this year, Norman said, because preparations for construction in the park have begun.
Norman said the bow hunters were required to take an additional training course this year before hunting on 200 acres of Blandair Park, the former farm that straddles Route 175 in Columbia.
Hunters there were seeing up to 70 deer each day, he said, though they were able to kill far fewer.