The purpose of this plan is to continue the established framework for reducing deer damage to watershed forests and surrounding property, given the lack of native canopy species recruitment and documented depredation to adjacent landscaping and agriculture. Although these managed hunts are not designed as a recreational opportunity, it is important to note that public interest and participation in our Program is very high. The Program is a management tool in areas where deer have exceeded the carrying capacity of the available habitat.
Development surrounding WSSC watershed property has taken place at an aggressive pace, resulting in habitat reduction for the deer herd, while the deer population in general has been estimated to be many times the recommended carrying capacity. Estimates from within Montgomery and Howard Counties have ranged from 175 to an astounding 448 (FLIR count) deer per square mile in park areas. Deer densities over 15 per square mile can begin to cause ecological impacts to area forests, and the elevated deer population has resulted in severe damage to the watershed forest and its ability to sustain itself.
Concern for agricultural crops and landscaping as well as for the health and safety of nearby residents has increased. For example, we have been informed that 50% of the households in Fox Haven, an adjacent development in Howard County, have suffered cases of Lyme disease. Further, local conservation groups and agencies such as the Montgomery Soil Conservation District and the Forest Conservancy District Board have recognized the need to reduce the deer herd on area forest properties.
The DNR and WSSC watershed staff have frequently met with local homeowner associations and farmers in response to deer damage complaints.
Elements of the Program
- Open bow hunting areas have been expanded. Maps are available in the Brighton Dam Visitor Cabin.
- Managed hunt areas are field checked by the hunt manager to determine the feasibility of hunting the area.
- This season there are hunt areas on the Patuxent Watershed along the Triadelphia/T. Howard Duckett (Rocky Gorge) Reservoirs watershed and at the Piscataway WWTP. All have been hunted previously.
- The number of hunters in each area will be determined by the hunt manager with DNR recommendations, and reviewed for safety considerations by the Office of Security and Safety Services.
- Applications are available online, at Brighton Dam or may be requested by calling 301-206-7485.
- Applicants may be approved to hunt on more than one occasion.
- Hunt locations will be lottery style.
- Watershed use permits will be required for all hunters over 16 and under 65 years of age ($6 per day or $70 per year).
- Only one antlered deer may be taken per season per hunter. However, the watershed manager may allow a sceond antlered deer on a future hunt if two antletless deer are harvested and at least one of them is deemed mature.
- Quality Deer Management is strongly encouraged; hunters should target mature antlered deer.
- Deer harvested will not count against the State bag limit.
- All hunters must sign in at Brighton Dam on the morning of a hunt between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m.
- All deer killed on WSSC managed hunts must be checked in at Brighton Dam at the end of each hunt day.
- All deer must also be checked in as required by State Regulations.
All managed hunts end at 11:00 a.m. and hunters must sign out at Brighton Dam regardless of success.