On the same day when Maryland wildlife officials announced they saved a deer in Harford County from a pretzel jar, the U.S. Army renewed its campaign to shoot dozens of them around Fort Meade.
The AP reports the garrison commander of Fort Meade, Col. Tom Rickard, said the Army will bring in sharpshooters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services unit to kill 100 deer around the Army outpost over the next three months.
This all may sound very cruel, but the end goal is actually to save the surrounding habitat. According to this guide published early last year, the Department of Interior’s 1984 takeover of Fort Meade’s rangelands brought a permanent end to hunting season on the property. That change and a lack of any real predators allowed the deer population around Fort Meade to explode. The result was an overabundance of prancing deer eating away at the Army outpost’s vegetation at an unsustainable rate. If the deer eat too many of the plants and rip too much of the bark off of the trees, they can destroy the ecosystem, according to the guide.
Fort Meade officials say sterilization and birth control are traumatizing to the animals and serve only as temporary fixes, so they reasoned that bringing in long-range shooters is the next best option. Two years ago, they set out to cull the population by several hundred. This year, they’re targeting a smaller fraction.
The killing of the deer will stop once the density is down to between 12 and 18 per square mile; at present, it’s around 32 per square mile. It was at 52 deer per square mile when they began, so all of the shooting must be working.
While it’s a sad thought, the cull will at least help to feed the needy. Col. Rickard told the AP all of the salvaged venison would go to the Maryland Food Bank.
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