Maryland officials encourage hunting to regulate high deer populations

In the past several years, the focus has shifted away from the preservation of deers and towards the overpopulation of deer.

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On January 6, 2023, the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks opened the hunting season of white-tailed deer for licensed Maryland hunters. Hunters were contracted to hunt only until 120 deer were harvested, which took only a day to accomplish. 

The Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks officially announced the deer population management through sharpshooting project back in January of 2020. The controlled hunting was designed to help maintain a balance of the white-tail deer population in the county, as the excess of deer was leading to biodiversity loss. Biodiversity of animals is important, as it is the main key in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. A variety of species will allow animals to handle threats from predators more efficiently by having the flexibility to adapt and survive, based on the natural rules derived from Darwin’s evolutionary theory of natural selection. However, the action of killing these deer populations in Maryland damages deer families by directly targeting adult deer. It breaks down the pattern of migration to decrease and hinder deer populations.

The harvested deer were donated to local charities such as the Community Action Council of Howard County’s Food Bank. Deer meat—venison—is a good source of lean protein that is high in iron, B12, B6, and other vitamins. Additionally, venison is low in calories and cholesterol, meaning that it is of higher nutritional value than other standard meats such as beef.

Guns such as rifles, pistols, and handguns are legal for Maryland citizens at the age of 21. The county took account of that and opened the privilege to train hunters with accurate and quiet rifles. Generally, licensed hunters must acquire a written slip from property owners, which gives them legal permission to hunt and sell deer; however, in this case, the hunters were also required to have a special permit issued from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

As a result of the deductions, there were 29,124 deer hunted last season from November 26 to December 10, 2022; a 10% increase in the net total of deer hunted according to the DNR. However, deer hunting can be affected by different environments. In areas where there are enough natural predators, the deer population is balanced, meaning there is no reason for certain states to follow this project of deduction. Yet, overpopulation mostly seems to be a problem in Maryland where deers can be spotted everywhere: in front of your house, backyards, and even in the middle of the road.

A rough estimate places 11,184 deers as the victims of roadkill in the state of Maryland and around 1.5 to 2.1 million deer-related accidents in the U.S. Not only do the deer get hurt and cause sudden scares on the road, citizens and cars get damaged in these types of collisions. Such dangers continue to happen, even when deer hunters kill around 6.3 million white-taild deers every year.

Deer overpopulation is a big issue in the local Howard County environments and efforts to control it are enforced by Recreation and Parks officials. Due to the lack of natural predators in suburban areas, officials encouraged organized hunting as it is an effective way to control the white-tail deer population. Despite the support of local environmental organizations and county officials, deer management remains ongoing. 


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