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Potomac Residents Seeking Answers To Deer Problem

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Potomac residents, seated along the wall at left, tell members of the Montgomery County Council's public safety committee that the county needs to do more controlled deer hunts.
Matt Bush
Potomac residents, seated along the wall at left, tell members of the Montgomery County Council's public safety committee that the county needs to do more controlled deer hunts.

Some residents in Potomac, Md. say deer are overrunning their community. Montgomery County authorities want to do more, but they can't because of state regulations.

The county does conduct controlled deer hunts, and those are killing more deer than ever before. But the number of deer-vehicle collisions in Montgomery County is at its highest point in a decade: 2,000 such crashes in 2011. 

The head of the county's deer management program Rob Gibbs admits that number likely represents only half or possibly one third of the true number of car-deer crashes in the county, as his office gets its figures from the county police department, and many people involved in such collisions call their insurance companies instead.

"As deer continue to spread into lower parts of the county and through areas where we've not been able to any deer management, we expect those numbers will continue to go up," he says. "We are pretty confident they would be much, much higher if we weren't taking the actions we're taking."

In addition, the Potomac residents who packed a county council hearing this week say the deer are becoming a health hazard, as several people have contracted Lyme disease. 

The residents, many of whom live near the C&O Canal National Historic Park,  want the county and the National Park Service to do more hunts. But county authorities are restricted by state laws that limit the time period they can do the controlled hunts.

One of those residents particularly annoyed is Potomac resident Gilbert Bloom. "What's the anachronism for no hunting on Sunday? That's a 1950's Blue Law kind of restriction," Gilbert says.

Earlier this month, the county held its first hunt in Sligo Creek Park...another area where there was a high volume of complaints from residents. 25 deer were killed in the hunt. State laws also limit how far hunters must stay from homes.

Mark Eakin is with a group that uses bows to hunt. He says lowering the distance hunters must stay away from homes from its current 150 yards to 50 yards, as Frederick County successfully pushed for with the state, would make it easier for bow hunters like himself to bag more deer.

"A bow and its range is significantly different than that of a shotgun or a muzzle loader, that also have the same 150-yard limit within Montgomery County."

According to Eakin, since the distance was lowered in Frederick County, the safety record for bow hunters on such hunts remained unblemished.

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