Montgomery County residents have been seeing more white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) than ever before. For many people, the sight of a deer bounding gracefully through the forest is an exciting and memorable experience that they would like to see more often. But, for an increasing number of residents whose landscape plantings or farm crops have been devastated by deer, who find numerous piles of feces in their yards, who have had the costly experience of hitting a deer with an automobile, or who worry about the potential for disease, there is a growing concern that we may have “too much of a good thing.”
Nearly eliminated in the early 1900’s, a reintroduction program begun in the 1930’s successfully re-established white-tailed deer in the Eastern U.S. As development increased into the once rural areas of Montgomery County, a patchwork of natural areas and landscaped suburban yards, ideal deer habitat, was created. Often, it is said that humans invaded deer habitat. However, while this is true to a degree, human progress has actually created habitat and an environment in which white-tailed deer, as an “edge species”, thrive.
With an increase in edge habitat, few natural predators and limited hunting, deer populations have increased dramatically in the past twenty-five years. The result has been an increase in deer-human conflicts including deer related automobile accidents, damage to agricultural crops, residential gardens and landscaping, and concerns about communicable disease. Learn more about living with deer here.
The growing concern about deer-related impacts over the past two and a half decades indicates that deer populations in some areas of Montgomery County have exceeded the cultural carrying capacity (i.e. exceeded what citizens will tolerate). There are also concerns about the damage deer are causing to natural communities in our parks, especially those related to forest system ecology.
Public education on the use of repellents and fencing to protect property and crops, and efforts to reduce deer-auto collisions through public awareness, warning signs, and reflectors, are important tools in reducing deer-human conflicts and increasing human tolerance for deer. These methods alone, however, do not solve the problem of overpopulation.
At right: 2018 Deer-Vehicle Collisions in Montgomery County, MD (small map)
If left unchecked, deer populations can grow exponentially. As the number of deer continues to increase, it is likely that deer-related conflicts will also continue to increase. Habitat will degrade and in the long run, the deer will suffer as the population becomes malnourished, unhealthy, and susceptible to disease. A program of deer population reduction can reduce both deer-human conflicts and deer impacts and must be considered as a tool in the long-term reduction of deer-related conflicts in Montgomery County. The County’s Deer Management Plan, shown below, outlines methods of population reduction for public and private lands.
The goal of Montgomery County’s Deer Population Management Program is to reduce human-deer conflicts to a level that is compatible with human priorities and land uses. In this way, citizens and white-tailed deer can co-exist in harmony and deer will remain a valued part of our county’s natural landscape.
In 1993, in response to citizen concerns about deer-related problems, the Montgomery County Council established a Citizen Task Force to Study White-tailed Deer Management. As a result of this group’s recommendations, the Montgomery County Deer Management Work Group (DMWG) was established to develop a deer management plan for the County and oversee the implementation of a countywide deer management program.
The DMWG is a multi-agency committee with representatives from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, (M-NCPPC) Department of Parks, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service, the Montgomery Soil Conservation District, the Montgomery County Police Department, the U.S. National Park Service, the City of Rockville, and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. The goal of the plan is to “Reduce human-deer conflicts to a level that is compatible with human priorities and land uses.”
Each year the Deer Management Work Group publishes a report on the current status of deer in the county and lists recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year.
The Montgomery County Department of Parks strives to keep its citizenry informed and involved. If you wish to be included on our mailing list to receive information regarding proposed programming, input opportunities, and annual program schedules, etc., please send an e-mail to MCPfirstname.lastname@example.org.
The MC311 Information Center will handle reports of dead deer along the roadway: Call 311 (or 240-777-0311 from a cell phone) Monday through Friday, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. To report a dead deer on a 24/7 basis, contact the county through the MC311 website.