Balto. Co. Council working on changes to deer hunt bill

Baltimore County Council members are looking to amend a bill to permit controlled deer kills in certain public parks, but critics say the proposed changes don't go far enough.

Council members said the changes are being formulated, but references to hunting have been deleted in favor of a "wildlife management program." Other amendments would require the county to also explore alternative methods of deer control — including sterilization — and would clearly state that the bill would not allow open season in county parks.

The council is scheduled to vote Monday on the legislation. Republicans Todd Huff and David Marks proposed the measure as a means of reining in a deer population that officials say is threatening county parks.

Opponent Enid Feinberg said the changes don't address her primary concern.

"I applaud any amendment that will keep hunters out of our Baltimore County parks, but I will never support or condone this senseless slaughter of defenseless deer," Feinberg said.

The bill also would require public notice for at least two weeks before a hunt, and that all venison would be processed and donated locally. A park would be closed to the public during the hunt.

"The language makes it clear that the County Council supports a dialogue about alternative ways to control wildlife," Marks said. "I still believe the most cost-effective way to control this population is through targeted sharpshooting, but it needs to be done in a restricted manner."

A study conducted by the county Commission on Environmental Quality found that deer were causing severe damage in some parks — notably at Oregon Ridge in Cockeysville — leading to devastated crops and greenery, and potentially increasing the spread of Lyme disease.

According to the commission, a healthy concentration of deer at Oregon Ridge would be about 10 to 15 per square mile; the current total is eight times that amount.

Anne Arundel County considered a similar measure two years ago, and Montgomery and Howard counties have had such programs in place for 15 years.

"It's time for Baltimore County to do the same," said Linda Davis, speaking this week on behalf of the commission.

Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, a Democrat who worked on the amendments, said he understands opponents' sentiments but believes that a controlled hunt is needed.

"[Other] methods haven't worked, and they are too expensive," Oliver said. "I think the amendments will help to get the bill passed."

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