Tag Archives: deer

Patriot LWM in Montgomery Sentinel Deer Article

Doah! A Deer Problem . . .

County still searches for solutions to growing deer population

One of the county's many deer residents.  -PHOTO BY HELEN HOCKNELL
One of the county’s many deer residents. -PHOTO BY HELEN HOCKNELL

Published on: Thursday, September 29, 2011 CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE LINK

By Helen Hocknell – The Sentinel Newspapers

Scientists call them Odocoileus virginianus, Disney names them “Bambi,” but farmer Ben Allnutt just calls them “rats with antlers.”

As the growing population of white-tailed deer continues to create problems for Montgomery County, farmers, gardeners and county officials seek solutions.

In the early 1900s, deer were nearly extinct in this region due to unregulated hunting. Hunting restrictions and reintroduction efforts in the decades that followed contributed to a dramatic population increase that has negatively impacted farm production, compromised road safety, and thrown the forest ecosystem off balance.

“What you have in Montgomery County is the perfect storm,” said Joe Brown, president of Patriot Land and Wildlife Management Services, located in Barnesville, MD. His company works with land owners and local governments to provide a variety of environmental management services, including deer population control. “By taking away natural predators and limiting hunters’ ability to hunt, we’ve created their ideal habitat, which has lead to this population explosion.”

The rate of reproduction for deer is a big part of the problem. “Lifespan varies, but deer in suburban environments can live to 10-12 years, in absence of hunting or car strike,” explained Wildlife Biologist Bill Hamilton of the Montgomery County Department of Parks. Female deer can begin breeding at 1.5 years of age, and continue to produce fawns throughout their lifespan, generating as many as 1-3 fawns per year. “Does in good health tend to have twins and triplets during their prime,” said Hamilton.

This means population reduction efforts are most effective when targeted at mature, reproductive-aged females, since bucks can mate with multiple does. “It really goes back to an effort vs. results equation,” explained Brown. “Say you have three hunters, each with three hours a week to give. Each hunter kills a deer, but two kill a buck and one kills a doe. With the doe, you’ve essentially taken three deer out of the population, but the hunters who got the bucks just took one out.”

In general, archery season in Montgomery County is permitted Mondays through Saturdays, September 15 through January 31 each year, and is also open on the 1st Sunday in November.  Bow hunting is not permitted during the firearms and muzzleloader seasons.  Firearms season occurs for two weeks, beginning in late November and again for two days during early January.  Hunters in the county may use shotgun, muzzleloader, and archery equipment during the firearms season.  Muzzleloader season occurs during Mid-December and runs for approximately two weeks, typically ending around January 1.

While the county has eased restrictions in the past to include more Sundays and extend the season, some hunters still feel that the county could do more to encourage hunting.

“A lot of hunters are working people who don’t have as much free time except on weekends,” explained Wayne Long of Laurel, MD. “The way the regulations are set up, that leaves only Saturdays or maybe holidays, which may mean only one day for several weekends,” said Long. He has used a crossbow in the past, but prefers hunting with traditional firearms like muzzleloaders, which is restricted to only a couple weeks a year.

Another obstacle for hunters is simple: limited freezer space. “A hunter may harvest one or two deer per season because that’s all their personal freezer capacity allows. They aren’t going to kill an animal for the sake of killing it – that’s illegal and not what the sport of hunting is about,” said Agricultural Services Manager Jeremy Criss of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development. So the county partnered up with Patriot Wildlife Management Services to coordinate the collection, processing and donation of venison to local area food banks. They set up cold boxes in Poolesville and Laytonsville where hunters could drop off field-dressed deer. In the 2010-2011 season, 401 deer were donated, providing 16,040 pounds of venison for food banks across the county.

The county also organizes a managed deer hunting program from late October through January, which hunters can apply to online after demonstrating knowledge and experience by completing a state-approved hunter safety education course and passing a background check. This year, managed hunts are scheduled to occur in eight locations.

“We currently have an active roster of approximately 325 approved participants,” said Hamilton, who explained that they typically remove approximately 500 deer annually through that program.

“We also utilize specially trained Park Police officers to remove deer during hours of darkness in specific parks.  This method is highly effective, but more costly than managed hunting, and can occur in more developed areas of the county. We remove 450-600 deer annually from approximately 11 park locations using this program,” explained Hamilton, adding that this method of removal allows them to meet standards of humane euthanasia as established by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

But in the city of Rockville, Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio doesn’t feel an organized hunt would be appropriate. “I’d like to see if there’s a way we can deal with this issue without resorting to culling the herd,” said Marcuccio. “My fist concern is, what are you saying to children? If something’s in your way, to just kill it? We have to manage the surplus, but you’re talking about trying to do some kind of major event in a city which is heavily populated that already has gun control rules that prevent you from firing a fire arm within city limits.”

While county and city officials work to figure out appropriate solutions for their jurisdictions, the impacts of deer overpopulation continue to present challenges to farmers and gardeners. The economic damage caused by deer eating farmers’ crops is significant, as a single deer can consume up to 2,000 pounds of grain per year.

“In 2004, farmers came to the county government and said that the greatest threat to Montgomery County agriculture is the white-tailed deer,” recounted Criss. The farmers showed aerial photos of their fields that illustrated stunning losses per acre.

“Well, people aren’t going to buy half an ear of corn with a big bite out of it,” said farmer Ben Allnutt of Homestead Farms, “and you can’t have people coming in to pick strawberries and have them kneeling in deer poop.”

Ten years ago, Homestead Farms was suffering such high crop losses due to deer browsing that they were at risk of going under. “We had to do something,” said Allnutt. “We could go out of business, or put a fence up.”

Allnutt invested around 65 thousand dollars to put up roughly 3.5 miles of fencing around 270 acres of crops. They used their own labor and planned to pay it back over five years, but the fence paid for itself in just two. “After two years, we were struggling with high yields,” explained Allnutt. “When you don’t have anything missing all of a sudden, you get a real handle on what they were actually consuming.”

While farmers seek ways to mitigate crop damage on a larger scale, frustrated gardeners have turned to everything from cayenne pepper, coyote urine, and intricate nets and fencing to protect their plants. Sherrye Schenk at the Potomac Garden Center says that while they don’t carry products that contain coyote urine because of inhumane collection methods, there are lots of other great products that work well if used correctly.

“If the plant is not edible, I would recommend a Liquid Fence. It’s basically rotten eggs and garlic,” said Schenk, adding that it can protect your garden against rabbits as well as deer. It’s a spray, so it may wash away in heavy rain. “If you’ve got an all-day soaker, you may want to re-apply,” said Schenk.

For vegetable gardens, Schenk recommends Deer Scram. “It’s a powder, so just sprinkle a perimeter around your garden. It contains dried sow’s blood, garlic, white pepper, and cloves. Animals think something has died there, so they avoid the area.”

Putting up a physical barrier around your garden may work to keep deer out, but sometimes bucks’ antlers can get caught in netting. “If you’re doing fencing, you want to make sure it’s at least 7 feet high, otherwise the deer will jump over it,” added Schenk.

Meanwhile, deer over-browsing continues to throw forest ecosystems off balance. “It’s a huge problem,” said Forest Ecologist Carole Bergmann of the Montgomery County Department of Parks, which oversees 35,000 acres of parkland. “There are not many people to manage that area and a heck of a lot of deer,” she explained.

Bergmann described a “browse line” that is easily visible in areas with high population densities of the keystone herbivore. “It’s just a big blank space,” said Bergmann. “If you walk in the woods, there’s nothing from about 4 or 5 inches off the ground – no shrub layer, no understory layer – going all the way up to about 5 feet high where deer can’t reach.”

The effects can be seen all up and down the East Coast, and it is exacerbating the problem of invasive plant species. “Deer won’t eat the invasives – they’ll only feed on native plants,” explained Bergmann. This further endangers native species that are already struggling to compete with the recently-introduced plants that are taking over.

In the face of a complex and growing problem, some remain optimistic. “Montgomery County is unique – they have one of the most proactive park systems in deer management in the country,” said Brown. Unfortunately, officials face an uphill battle.

As Criss explained, “we’ve got a long ways to go, and in this economic environment, we’re not going to have as many resources available to deal with the problem.”

2011-2012 Montgomery County, MD Deer Donation Program Information

Coming off another record season last year with over 400 deer donated to the program, Montgomery County Department of Economic Development Agricultural Services Division has announced the continuation of the program for the 2011-2012 hunting season. All needed information is on the below flyer, please print this information out and pass it along. We are looking forward to another great season thanks to the help of Montgomery County’s hunters!

Deer Donation Flyer 2011

Patriot LWM on “Voice of Russia Radio” – Maryland Tackling Deer Overpopulation


Spotting a deer in nature is often an exciting thing. For many it’s a graceful creature that makes one think of Bambi and other gentile animals. But when deer populations grow too big they can be a safety hazard to human populations, as well as the ecology of an area. Currently, the city of Rockville, Maryland, is looking for ways to control its deer population, which has caught the attention of Bob Barker, the former host of the Price is Right and nationally known animal rights activist. He has written an open letter to Rockville, asking officials for other options than hunting the deer. Joe Brown, President of Patriot Land and Wildlife Management Services, Inc., who is also President and co-founder of Western Chesapeake Watershed Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association, and Jonathan Kays, a natural resource extension specialist with the University of Maryland Extension, talk about how to solve the problem of oversized deer populations.

Click HERE for Voice of Russia Website

Patriot LWM Attends “Udderly Terrific” Luncheon for Ag Leaders

Monday August 15, 2011 was the opening week of the 63rd Montgomery County Agricultural Fair in Gaithersburg, MD.  The Agricultural Leaders’ Luncheon was held in the Heritage Garden Room of the Fairgrounds the same day, sponsored by the Board of Directors of the Montgomery County Agricultural Center, the University of Maryland Extension, and the Montgomery County Agricultural Services Division.

Attendees included Maryland Secretary of Agriculture, Buddy Hance, County Executive, Ike Leggett, several Congressional, Delegate, and County Council office representatives, members of various agricultural committees, various organizations and agencies like the Maryland Farm Bureau, NRCS, Montgomery County Soil Conservation District, USDA, The University of Maryland, as well as local farmers. Parts of the meal were provided by many different local farmers, giving everyone a taste of what Montgomery County agriculture has to offer.

The Luncheon was held in recognition of the strong leadership in the Montgomery County Agricultural Community and its purpose was to bring together people within Montgomery County’s agricultural industry to share the successes of our vital agricultural economy and also to share some concerns. Several agricultural leadership awards were presented, an update on Agricultural Preservation was offered, and a presentation from the Agricultural Advisory Committee was given. Within this presentation were updates on the Montgomery County Deer Donation program and the successes it has achieved over the last 7 years. Patriot LWM manages this particular program and the support of the agricultural community, agencies, and organizations within the County have allowed it to blossom into a truly beneficial and successful program for Montgomery County.

For more information about the Montgomery County Deer Donation Program, please visit http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/agstmpl.asp?url=/content/ded/agservices/aginitiatives.asp#deer

Patriot LWM Member Photo Featured in Local Wildlife Story

Just a few weeks ago, in late July, Patriot LWM volunteer Holger Kray of Darnestown, MD put out some trail cameras at a Patriot LWM managed property in Darnestown – one that is blessed with a variety of wildlife, but suffers from a significant degree of trespassing and poaching. A few days later, Holger returned to gather the camera and see what pictures it had taken. Unexpectedly, he got one picture of an early morning invader that no one really expected to see in this suburban area, and no, it wasn’t a sasquatch. As land and wildlife managers, it is our job to keep our eyes peeled and ears tuned in to what is going on and informing our clients and communities of what we see and experience, and offer our professional opinion. It’s amazing how social media keeps us informed – from trail camera picture, to a Tweet, to a news story in just hours….Take a quick minute for a great read posted in the NorthPotomac-Darnestown Patch!

Coyote Spotted in Darnestown

“Coyotes don’t normally pose a threat to people, but there’s always a risk.”

By Glynis Kazanjian
August 4, 2011

A coyote was caught on film roaming the grounds of a private farm in Darnestown in the early morning hours of July 31. Holger Kray, a Darnestown resident and volunteer with Patriot Land and Wildlife Management, said he set up a trail camera there, along with various other properties in the area.

Patriot LWM helps landowners with environmental improvements and wildlife management.

Kray sent the photo of the coyote out in a Tweet earlier today. He said he didn’t do it to alarm anyone.

“We’ve had several sightings of coyotes,” Kray said. “It’s fascinating to inform residents of the beautiful and diverse wildlife in a suburban area. I’m a true wildlife enthusiast.”

Kray said coyotes are present in the area, but should not be considered dangerous to human beings, including children. His neighbor spotted one four weeks ago on Berryville Road in Darnestown, and his wife saw one on their property last year.

Kray said coyotes are here as a natural migration and that they are afraid of humans.

“Their first choice is to run away from humans. This is why you hardly ever see a coyote. They feed on small rodents, on little deer and human beings should not be afraid of them. The same holds true for foxes, dogs and cats.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the government agency that manages coyote sightings in the state, said there is no available estimate for how many coyotes there are in the county, only that coyotes have a presence in every county of the state.

“It is a very rare and exciting experience to see a coyote. People normally don’t get to,” said Patricia Allen, Wildlife and Heritage Information Manager at DNR. “Coyotes don’t normally pose a threat to people, but like any wild animal, there’s always a risk.”

Allen said wild creatures are allowed to roam freely, but there are biologists at DNR who study their behavior. There are also two hunting seasons for coyotes: the firearm, bow and crossbow season, from October 15 to March 15, and the trapping season which runs from November 1 to January 19 in Montgomery County.

County residents who are concerned about coyotes may call the DNR nuisance hotline at 1-877-463-6497.

To view the Patch website story, please visit http://northpotomac.patch.com/articles/coyote-spotted-in-darnestown#c

PRESENTATIONS FROM SUBURBAN DEER MANAGEMENT WORKSHOP POSTED

The University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Office has posted all the presentations and information from last months “Suburban Deer Management: Options and Choices for Decision-Makers” of which Patriot Land & Wildlife President Joe Brown was a guest speaker. The Forestry Resources Website has all the information you could need when it comes to making an educated decision regarding your suburban deer management issues.

CLICK HERE FOR PRESENTATIONS

Eye Opening Deer Study from Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute

It has long been known that an overpopulation of deer has negative effects on your vehicle when they wander into the roadway infront of you, or your flowers when the deer make their way to your yard, but a study from the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute is pinning a new victim on this overpopulation, our forests. Biologists looked at the effects of deer overpopulation on forest regeneration and how that relates to the growth of invasive species of plants. What they found is sure to be a wake up call for the ecological community who must now look at wildlife management as another tool to protect and ensure the health of their natural community.

Story from WAMU.org:

A world with deer (left) versus a world without them (right). The difference is stark and extends from the ground to the canopy -- birds, mice, and chipmunks are more abundant without deer. Courtesy of: Xiaoli Shen

Deer Overpopulation Yields Disastrous Results For Forests

Sabri Ben-Achour

WAMU Radio Report

May 23, 2011 – As an ever-rising population of white-tailed deer have bumped up against their human neighbors in the D.C. area, the results haven’t been pretty. There were an estimated 88,000 deer-vehicle collisions in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and Delaware last year.

Dozens of species, some relatively rare, flourish without deer to munch on them. Importantly, young trees are able to survive too. When old trees die, there are plenty of saplings waiting in the wings to take their place -- not so in a forest of overpopulated deer. Courtesy of: Xiaoli Shen

But beyond the roads, experts say the deer are also having a major impact on forests, which are unable to replenish themselves to nurture the next generation due to the deer population’s eating habits.

To illustrate this decline in forests during the past several years, a group of scientists blocked off a chunk of woods to the deer more than two decades ago.

A slice of untouched, and uneaten, woods

It’s called an exclosure, and it’s a place where no deer have trod for decades. Back in 1990, scientists at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., closed off 10 acres of forest with 8-foot high fences to see how the land would evolve without its furry friends.

“So we’re comparing inside the fence to the outside the fence,” says Bill McShea, a wildlife ecologist at SCBI. “And there’s two things of note. One is, it’s green on both sides of the fence but in here it’s a lot more diverse than out there.”

That is an understatement. The deer side of the fence has a carpet of grass, a shrubby looking thing and some large trees — things that are either too big for deer to eat or among the very few plants they don’t like to eat.

Inside is practically a jungle, with dozens of different almost exotic looking plants are tumbling over one another, many of them young trees.

“In here I can see white ash and hickory and red maples and white maples and serviceberry,” McShea says. “A whole bunch of under story and canopy trees that are all now three or four feet tall. We are looking at 20, 30 species. There’s a lot of diversity in here. You look out there, and it’s a much simpler world.”

Deer-eaten forests risk dying

That simpler world is an aging world. Really, it’s a dying world as far as forests go.

“The future is not good. There are no teenagers, there’s no young adults,” McShea says of the trees and other foliage. “Everybody’s a mature individual. Whereas, inside this fence you have the complete profile of ages. You have youngsters, you have teenagers, you have middle-aged adults, you have the old trees.

“And when the old trees go — and they’re going to go, because that’s what happens with old trees, they fall over — there is something here to take its place,” McShea says. “Out there, I don’t see anything out there that’s a small tree.”

These results of the exclosure, although striking, are what scientists could have predicted. One of the surprising things they found, however, is that deer allow invasive species to flourish.

“The Japanese stilt grass is just coming up now as a highly invasive annual grass,” says Norm Bourg, a plant ecologist with SCBI.

The Japanese-origin grass carpets the floor outside the exclosure, but inside, there are many more native species present.

“There’s a lot of native species like horse balm,” Bourg says, gesturing to the plants beneath his feet. “This is black cohosh, which is a native medicinal plant that you hardly ever see out there.”

With fewer native plants outside the exclosure, there are fewer birds there that depend on them for nests and food, and there are also fewer mice and chipmunks when they have to compete with deer.

Deer population is result of re-population

But it wasn’t always this way. One hundred years ago, deer were nearly extinct in Maryland and extremely rare in Virginia.

“By that time, you couldn’t find a deer or a turkey or a bear in the state,” McShea says. “Both the habitat changes and the restaurant trade eliminated most of those animals.”

Today’s ubiquitous food trend of “buying local” was the norm back then, and hunting was an industry, says McShea.

“They weren’t going to put a cow on a train in Texas and ship it to Virginia,” McShea says. “If you were going to go to a restaurant, order yourself a steak, for the most part that was a venison steak.”

In the early part of the 1900’s, newly minted state game departments rushed to the rescue, banning or regulating hunting and setting up parks.

“When they made the Shenandoah Park in the 1930s, they went and got deer from Arkansas and brought them back here to repopulate that area,” says McShea. “So growing the deer population was intentional. It’s a conservation story and it went just like they planned.”

A conservation effort’s unintended consequences

The result is that today, there are several million deer, and, as McShea puts it, “the flip side has happened.

“They’re hitting too many cars, there’s too much gardens being eaten, the forest succession is changing,” he continues. “We’ve got to dial that back a little bit.

Deer aren’t evil, McShea is quick to emphasize, but they have no predators now and they need to be managed. States currently rely primarily on scheduled hunts, where the public is allowed to come in and take out deer.

That works well on parkland to some extent, but it doesn’t work on private property or in federal parks, which have been slower to adopt aggressive management.

“We have time for that, we don’t have to make a decision this year,” he says. But we don’t have decades, he adds. Trees don’t live forever.

Usually, species compete for light. But where there are too many deer, they compete on the basis of deer resistance. Few species are unpalatable to deer, so few species prevail and they tend to be invasive. Courtesy of: Xiaoli Shen