Whitetail Deer In Maryland
Where did our whitetail deer come from, who brought them, and why?
- While for decades, seeing a whitetail deer in Maryland was a rarity, it isn't anymore because of actions taken by what we now know as the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), our agency charged with "wildlife management."
- In 1916, Maryland's legislature created the Conservation Commission to protect and propagate wildlife, and in 1918, the first hunting licenses became law. But who's going to buy a hunting license without big game to hunt and kill in Maryland? DNR had to do something about that.
- In the early 1920s deer were purchased from nearby states for "breeding stock. They flourished, and Maryland deer hunting reopened for the first time in 1927. Then, the big push to populate deer throughout Maryland in the 1940s was on. DNR staff trapped over 2,000 deer located on the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds, relocating them throughout Maryland until the early 1960s.
How did we get so many whitetail deer?
- Maryland's deer herd expanded beyond biologists' wildest predictions. Suburban habitat became more "deer friendly" -- lots of flowers, shrubs and bushes for deer to eat. Also, contrary to scientific thinking, deer did not run away when humans encroached on their territory. Deer tend to reproduce in greater numbers when they are hunted. It's called the "compensatory rebound effect." even with the expansion of deer hunting opportunity, we continue to have about the same number of deer we had a decade ago.
How does DNR primarily "manage" our deer that they put here -- and why?
- Current whitetail deer "wildlife management" primarily means that DNR finds ways to legally allow hunters purchasing a license (less than 2% of Maryland citizens hunt) and others to kill our deer. During the 2007-2008 season, hunters killed over 92,000 does, fawns (babies), bucks - with rifles, shotguns, and even bows and arrows for sport and recreational trophies and food.
- Today, over 80% of DNR's funding for wildlife management comes from hunting license sales. Almost nothing is done by DNR or other state agencies to help citizens co-exist with deer, yet technology for such practices is proven and available.
Who kills our deer?
- Anyone with a Maryland hunting license can kill dozens of deer every year in Maryland, during regular deer seasons, in public parks, on state lands - even in "wildlife refuges!" Last year it was "war on whitetails" at Loch Raven Reservoir! And when hunters don't kill enough deer to satisfy DNR, our tax dollars are used to pay sharp shooters to kill even more.
- Children can get hunting licenses, too, and hunt at any age in Maryland, unsupervised by adults for most of the season. DNR even promotes child hunting with a special "Youth Deer Hunting Day."
- Farmers can easily get "crop deprivation permits" allowing hunters to come on their lands and kill deer year round. If it sounds like a "war" on our deer, you are getting the picture.
But what about deer eating my plants, crashing into my car, or perhaps giving me Lyme disease?
- Deer eat plants, and crash into cars - but there are things you can do to help prevent it. For an extensive listing of plants they don't like, other ways to keep them out of your garden, and how to help reduce your chances of a deer/vehicle collision, go to www.deersolutionsmd.com.
- You could kill every deer in Maryland and you would still have Lyme Disease because deer don't give you Lyme disease: That's a myth. In fact, simply removing the deer from an area where Lyme disease has been detected can increase your chances of getting the disease. Once again, for a more detailed explanation of how this disease works and ways we can help prevent it, go to www.deersolutionsmd.com.
How can I help humanely control our Maryland deer population and stop deer killing for sport?
Do This Now!
- First, contact the Governor. Request that Maryland's DNR include in their Deer Management Plan a section providing for implementation of alternative procedures to prevent our deer from reproducing. Federal EPA approval for GonaCon, a vaccine that interrupts deer reproductive cycles is effective and should be approved very soon. But we MUST get Maryland's DNR on-board to make this happen here!
- Second, join MVFA if you have not done so already. Politics plays a key role in Maryland's management of whitetail deer in Maryland. We need to work together providing a voice for the animals in the Maryland General Assembly. We are dedicated to electing those who will support animal protection causes. Without you, our deer have no voice.
- Finally, contribute. We have zero paid staff, so every penny you give goes to support our goal of passing humane legislation and protecting Maryland animals.