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Deer invading Jefferson County farms

July 27, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Large herds of deer are invading farms in Jefferson County, trampling and eating corn and soybean crops, and threatening other operations such as vineyards, a county official said.

"If I didn't have two dogs out there in the vineyard, they would take the whole thing away," said Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Corliss, who runs a farm along Daniels Road north of Charles Town.

At the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Conservation Training Center near Shepherdstown, W.Va., it is not unusual to see several dozen deer at a time congregating in fields around the center, said spokesman Steve Chase.

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Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had a deer hunt on the center's property in an attempt to reduce deer populations and center officials plan to do the same this year, Chase said.

The issue came up during a recent Jefferson County Commission meeting. Besides Corliss, Commissioners Jane Tabb and Rusty Morgan are farmers.

The commissioners discussed the damage deer are causing at local farms and said they planned to talk to state Department of Natural Resources officials about possible solutions.

Department of Natural Resources officials will issue "crop damage permits" to farmers who have experienced problems with deer damaging their crops, said Lt. Jerry Jenkins of the DNR.

With the permits, hunters can go on the farms and kill up to 25 deer, although the average usually is around 10 deer, Jenkins said.

To be eligible for the permits, a DNR representative must go to a farm and assess the damage, Jenkins said.

"It's not solving the problem. It's keeping it in check, I guess," Jenkins said.

Farmers also can help reduce the deer population by opening up more of their land to hunters to bag anterless deer, Jenkins said.

Many hunters want to hunt bucks, but shooting female deer is a more effective way of reducing the deer population, Jenkins said.

The increasing number of deer in the Eastern Panhandle can be attributed partly to residential growth, Chase said.

As more subdivisions pop up in the area, there is less area to hunt deer, Chase said.

Chase said no predators for deer exist in the area, except when the deer get hit on the highways.

About 40 deer were killed during the deer hunt last November at NCTC, on Shepherd Grade Road north of Shepherdstown, Chase said.

During the deer hunts, hunters contact center officials to be included in a lottery to decide who will be allowed to hunt, Chase said. After a group of hunters is selected, center officials give them a safety class and a course to familiarize them with the property, he said.

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