Lake Linganore’s homeowners association is considering a management plan that would let 20 bow hunters kill deer in designated areas away from homes.
The Lake Linganore Association has been looking at how to reduce its deer population since September 2015, said Brett Hamilton, the operations manager. He and a resident drafted the policy, which would allow a small number of applicants to bow hunt in nine areas on Jan. 3, 5, 10 and 12, 2017.
The plan opened for public comment on Oct. 14 and will remain open for at least 30 days.
At least seven deer were presumably struck and killed by vehicles inside the community this month. Four homeowners called the HOA for dead deer in their yards; three other deer were found on the side of the road and removed by maintenance staff, said Bob Kimble, the general manager of Lake Linganore Association.
“Would you rather have a deer hit by a car and suffer or shot by a hunter?” Kimble said.
Lake Linganore is facing a similar deer problem as other suburbs, and considered what other communities do about large suburban deer populations. Nearby, the board of directors for the Spring Ridge homeowners association announced in November 2010 that, after a little over a year of consideration, it would allow controlled deer hunts with bows as “the most efficient way to mitigate this problem.”
Montgomery Parks, in Montgomery County, is piloting a controlled deer bow hunt this year in Germantown and Potomac, according to its website. The parks already periodically close for annual shotgun hunts.
The federal government plans to have sharpshooters kill more than 400 white-tailed deer at Monocacy and Antietam national battlefields this December to prevent damage and lower populations, The Associated Press reported.
At Lake Linganore, the backyard of Lauren Menendez’s house faces the woods where one proposed hunting zone is. The mother of a 7-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, she is concerned that her youngest could see a dying deer, even though the hunts are scheduled to take place during school hours.
A deer could be struck during the hunt and run several hundred feet before going down, Kimble said. Nonhunters assisting with the hunt will make sure no residents are injured by wounded animals and that animals are not left in surrounding yards.
Menendez said deer are familiar with her property and could easily run out of the hunting zone.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates the rural deer population in areas that could be hunted at 214,000, down 81,000 from its peak in 2003, said George Timko, who has worked at DNR for 24 years. Timko is the only dedicated staff member for urban and suburban deer populations.
A majority of the state is privately owned, and the agency cannot manage deer on private property. Timko said he can only estimate how many deer live in developed parts of the state from sharpshooting kills and voluntary reporting of deer struck by vehicles.
Menendez has seen deer around the community and the edges of the streets, but has never come close to striking one with her car. The cause of the problem in Lake Linganore, where the speed limit is 25 mph, is speeding, not deer, she said.
Speeding and distracted driving is a problem within the private community, said Bill Zboyan, who moved to a house above the lake in 1991 with his wife, JoAnn. He has repeatedly contacted the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office about speeding and wears a reflective vest to make sure drivers can see him when he walks.
Development of the area has cut down on the deer habitat. The deer population might be too high to be sustainable, Kimble said.
Deer could starve during the winter, he said. There is no undergrowth in some areas of Lake Linganore. The hope is that remaining deer will be healthier and stronger because of the reduced population.
“It’s not something we wanted to do in the beginning,” Kimble said of the management plan, “but one of the things we needed to do for the health of the [deer] herd.”
Cost of nonlethal options
The Lake Linganore Association brought in Timko in February to advise the community, Hamilton said. The community had three options: Do nothing, sterilize or use lethal methods.
Amy Burkall, a research associate at the biotech company Lonza, has lived in Lake Linganore with her American Bulldog-Rottweiler mix, Scrappy, for two years. Burkall prefers a nonlethal option, such as birth control.
GonaCon, the only federally approved chemical sterilization method for deer, slows population growth rather than cuts it down, because deer are not killed. It would cost $800 to $1,300 to tranquilize, chemically sterilize and tag each deer through a contracting company, Timko said. Deer can be surgically sterilized, but that can be equally expensive.
“I’m a conservationist, so I believe there are ways we can handle this,” Burkall said.
Burkall and her neighbors are used to seeing about five deer each day on their cul de sac. When there are fawns, she has seen as many as 12 together. Nature and wildlife are some of the community’s advertising points, and it seemed backward to kill deer, she said.
“The last thing we want to do is wipe out deer,” Kimble said.
The next move
The deer management plan has been altered several times. The board of directors has not voted whether to change the rules and regulations of the community to allow hunting, which has historically been banned.
The only change not listed in the public copy of Lake Linganore’s plan is language the board requested adding nonhunting volunteers, who will attend the hunt and maintain public safety, Hamilton said.
The HOA is seeking to get DNR involved in the hunt in a nonhunting and observational role, Kimble said. Otherwise, the HOA will ask the sheriff’s office to send a deputy to help control the public from disrupting the hunt.
Burkall plans to be on the periphery of the hunt to observe and make noise to scare deer out of the area, she said.
Bill Zboyan contacted multiple animal advocacy agencies, including The Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA.
He also contacted the Bar Association of Frederick County and his personal attorney looking for someone to work pro bono against any potential changes to rules and regulations or the covenant that prohibits hunting in Lake Linganore. None have committed to the case, but he plans to try several more.
The HOA hosted a public information session on Aug. 20. The plan has been on the HOA agenda during its September and October meetings.
Menendez, Burkall and Zboyan all said they did not think the HOA adequately notified homeowners about the deer management plan.
As of Friday, the HOA had received 35 comments from residents, Hamilton wrote in an email.
The board voted at its October meeting to start accepting hunter applications. Hamilton said he has received 12 applications.
The plan states: “The areas accessed for the hunts will be marked with signage notifying that the area is in use for the deer management hunt. In order to participate, a person must pass a shooter proficiency qualification test, which has been adapted from the Maryland standard.”
Participants may not have been guilty of a Maryland game law violation within the past five years.
“I think the whole proposal was written with safety in mind,” Hamilton said.