DEPARTMENT OF PARKS APPROVES DEER MANAGEMENT FOR SLIGO CREEK STREAM VALLEY PARK; PROGRAM TO BEGIN IN JANUARY 2012
SILVER SPRING, MD— M-NCPPC, Montgomery Parks, announces that a new deer management program in Sligo Creek Stream Valley Park Golf Course has been approved and will begin in January, 2012.
As part of the program, specially trained Park Police sharpshooters, under very stringent guidelines and in the most humane way possible, will lethally remove deer from the park. The Park Police-based sharpshooting activities will occur within the Sligo Creek Golf Course at night from 5:30 pm until sunrise – when the park is closed to the public – throughout January, February and March, 2012.
The Department of Parks was asked to implement a deer management program in this area by community groups, individuals, and the Montgomery County Council due to the increasingly adverse impacts of the burgeoning deer population on local neighborhoods including an increase in deer-vehicle collisions, Lyme disease from deer-borne ticks, and damage to the natural ecosystem of Sligo Creek Stream Valley Park. Native plants are being browsed heavily, dying with no chance to reproduce, and birds and other animals that rely on a balanced ecosystem are disappearing.
Parks wildlife ecology staff investigated deer densities in Sligo Creek Stream Valley Park between Route 29 and Arcola Avenue annually beginning in 2007. Current estimates show that 140-181 individual deer use these parklands; this density is over four times higher than recommended for the area. It was determined that the Sligo Creek Golf Course was the best location to begin reducing deer populations.
The new program was proposed in October, 2011, and the Department accepted public comments regarding the proposal through November 10, 2011, receiving 151 responses from area residents. Seventy-four percent of respondents were supportive of the program.
Several comments opposing the program suggested utilizing alternative measures, such as birth control, to manage the population. “The use of birth control was considered for this site,” said Natural Resources Manager Rob Gibbs, “however it was determined that it was not a feasible method for free roaming wild deer in Sligo Creek Park.” One important reason this method was not selected is that the only FDA-approved drug for birth control in wild deer requires each deer to be captured, tagged and hand injected with the drug. This process would need to be repeated with each treated deer every two to three years and for any fawns born or non-treated deer that move into the area. Some experimental efforts using deer contraception have been conducted in the county; however, they have all been done within fenced areas and even then, have not significantly reduced deer numbers even after more than a decade of use. The Department continues to monitor advances in deer contraception in hopes of using it in the future if the drugs and technology improve.
Concerns regarding safety were also raised during the comment period. In order to ensure the public is aware of park closures and sharpshooting operations, the Department will post yellow and black “Park Closed” signs around and throughout Sligo Golf Course. Notices of closures will also be posted on the Montgomery Parks website. Park Police will patrol the park during these operations to ensure public safety and safe weapons discharge.
“Park Police has been utilizing sharpshooting as a method of deer population reduction in Montgomery Parks since 1999, safely and effectively when traditional hunting is not practical or legally possible,” said Department of Parks Wildlife Ecologist Bill Hamilton. All deer harvested from the program will be utilized to feed the hungry throughout the Capital area, including in Montgomery County.
The Department of Parks sharpshooting operations have been very successful. Over the past 11 years, more than 4,000 deer have been harvested and about 70 tons of meat donated to local food banks. Measurable reductions of impacts from deer have been realized, such as a decline in deer-vehicle collisions surrounding parks where management occurs. There has not been a single safety accident since the program began.
Lowering deer numbers in the area will reduce deer-vehicle collisions and impacts to home landscaping, and help the heavily damaged park ecosystem recover and support a greater diversity of native plants and animals including a more balanced and healthy population of deer.
To learn more the department’s deer management program, visit www.ParksDeerManagement.org.
Marketing and Public Affairs Manager
Montgomery County Department of Parks