For the City of Rockville one of the most persistent safety risks for drivers is the City’s deer population.
On Monday, the Rockville Mayor and City Council renewed discussion of what to do about the City’s growing white-tail deer population. Monday night’s discussion was a follow up from an April meeting where Mayor Bridgett Donnell Newton and members of the City Council discussed using lethal methods to cull the deer population in Rockville.
On Monday, a scientist from the University of Maryland said deer population is on the rise now just in Rockville, but across the United States because of new changes in their habitat.
“It’s the perfect storm. You have prime, amazing deer habitat with no predators,” said Dr. Jennifer Murrow, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland.
The deer population in Rockville has become a safety risk for drivers in the City, problem that has plagued the City for years said Council member Mark Pierzchala, who was first elected in 2009
While City officials have no reliable way to track the population of white-tailed deer within the City’s limits, the number of vehicle-deer collision has steadily increased over the last few decades.
According to statistics from Montgomery County Police, there were 1,343 deer-vehicle collisions in County in 1994 that number increased to 1,965 in 2015. The County trend follows the state, where there has been an average of 32,200 deer-vehicle collisions the last five years, according to a 2017 report from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
“The numbers are pretty astronomical, which translate to higher insurance rates, it translates to some human deaths,” Murrow said.
According to Murrow there are a few options for the City to contain its deer population.
First is catch and relocate, which Murrow said is not practical because it is unlikely another jurisdiction would take Rockville’s deer. The second would be to sterilize the deer population to prevent the deer from reproducing, which could work but wouldn’t stop deer migration from other areas.
The third would be to cull the deer population, which could be done with sharpshooters hired by the County, State or federal agencies. Murrow recommended that the City use multiple methods to control the City’s deer population.
Dr. Joseph Sullivan, a professor of plant science and landscape architecture at the University of Maryland, said Rockville has to work with other jurisdictions — namely Montgomery County, if it wants to be serious about controlling the deer population.
“I think the integration really needs to be across municipalities,” Sullivan said. “If Rockville were to trap every single deer, within a week, you would not have as many, but you would still have deer.”
Another knockoff effect of the increased deer population is that it has increased the risk for people to get Lyme’s Disease and other diseases carried by ticks, Murrow said.
“Primarily what they’re maintaining is a massive population of ticks,” she said.
Pierzchala said he has noticed the effects of the deer population on forests in Rockville, saying the overpopulated deer have hurt the natural ecosystem within the City.
“What you’re describing we see all over the place. The understory is just destroyed,” Pierzchala said of forests in the City.