Environment

Officials to kill 150 deer around Greenbury Point

Some area residents oppose 'slaughtering'

By LISA BEISEL, Staff Writer
The Capital 05/04/09

Officials with two wildlife groups will be conducting a culling, or elimination, of 150 deer in the next several weeks around Greenbury Point across the Severn River from Annapolis.

Though officials said killing the deer is necessary, other said shooting the deer is inhumane. Activists are trying to stop the killings, or negotiate a more humane way to control the deer overpopulation, but say they are running into roadblocks.

Wildlife officials will target the area surrounding David Taylor Research Center across the river from the Naval Academy, an area that includes Greenbury Point. The property is designated Naval Support Activity Annapolis, officials said.

"The deer population at Greenbury Point is unsustainable," said Maria Tolleson, spokeswoman for public affairs at Naval District 1 in Washington, which controls the property. "There are just too many of them."

She said there are so many deer in the ecosystem that without an elimination, many would probably die of disease or starvation.

The effort stems from a January study that showed there were about 260 deer inhabiting that area. A safer number for the ecosystem is less than half of that, Tolleson said. The elimination will help to prevent the spread of disease to adjoining residential areas, she said.

It is not a "hunt," in that only trained professionals with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and wildlife services will be conducting the operation. It is scheduled to occur over a period of several weeks, Tolleson said.

After the killings, some of the deer will be scientifically tested for diseases and reproductive function, while the healthy meat from the rest of them will go to local homeless shelters.

Signs have been posted in the area and roadblocks will prevent unauthorized access to areas where hunting is taking place, she said. The culling will be done using rifles with a device attached to suppress the sound, Tolleson said.

Charlotte Lindsley, who lives in the nearby Providence community, learned of the deer killing late last month. She said there were no signs notifying the neighborhood, but a commander at the Naval Academy told her last week that the nearby community associations had been notified.

She called the killing the "slaughtering of pregnant deer," and opposes the shooting of the deer. People and dogs are often in the area after dark and she said she's worried for their safety, too, she said.

Lindsley also said she feels the effort was cloaked in secrecy.

"The whole thing is very creepy," she said.

She's reached out to other activists, including the Humane Society, to try to put an end to the culling.

Joe Lamp, who serves on the Wildlife Advisory Commission of the state Department of Natural Resources, said he's concerned about the effort from a public-safety standpoint. He also said he is worried that this is the time of year when does are traditionally pregnant.

Of large concern is that residents were largely unaware of the shooting effort, he said.

"People in the surrounding area, whether they care to have the deer killed or not, should at least be aware of it," Lamp said.

Another group he's part of, Annapolis for Animals, also is concerned with the operation, he said. Members are contacting elected officials to express their concerns, he added.

The overpopulation claim hasn't been proven in a suburban environment, Lamp said. He said he hopes those in charge will consult with the Humane Society to try to come up with a more humane way of controlling the population, he said.

(Revised May 2009)