Michael A. Sawyers
ANNAPOLIS — Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo isn’t a hunter, doesn’t have anything against hunting and believes there are too many deer in the county he represents, Montgomery.
Consequently, the Democrat has introduced House Bill 860 that will make it illegal to feed deer in Maryland unless you are hunting them.
In essence, according to Fraser-Hidalgo, people who feed deer with the purpose of simply watching them keep the deer from ranging into areas where they can be hunted.
The bill, should it pass and become law, would go into effect statewide.
“There are more than 220,000 deer in the state and more than 32,000 motor vehicle accidents caused by them,” Fraser-Hidalgo said. “Deer help to spread Lyme disease and they devastate the forest and ornamental plantings. The culling of the herd (by hunters) was down 11 percent (in 2012) so that is a contributing factor to the overpopulation of deer.”
There are nine co-sponsors for Fraser-Hidalgo’s bill, all from Montgomery or Prince George’s counties.
Fraser-Hidalgo believes his bill works in conjunction with another piece of legislation sponsored by the entire Montgomery County delegation.
House Bill 138 applies only to Montgomery County and would reduce the safety zone for bowhunting from 150 yards to 50 yards, thus making it legal to harvest deer with archery tackle in many residential settings.
The deer baiting bill points out that it will continue to be perfectly legal for hunters to use food, salt or other mineral-based attractants to lure deer within range of their bows and arrows.
In addition, the bill states, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the (Department of Natural Resources) to restrict the use of bait in chronic wasting disease management areas.”
Conviction would carry a $500 fine, though Fraser-Hidalgo anticipates that Maryland Natural Resources Police officers would likely issue warnings, especially during the first year after enactment.
Both bills are before the Environmental Matters Committee, on which Fraser-Hidalgo has a seat.
The deer baiting bill will be heard for the committee on Wednesday at 1 p.m.
Paul Peditto, director of the Wildlife & Heritage Service, said he anticipates the agency taking a neutral stance on the baiting bill.
Fraser-Hidalgo, formerly a Montgomery County police officer, said he has had more than one occasion to pull up to an accident scene where a car has struck a deer.
“I’ve had to discharge my firearm (to put down an injured deer). It’s not pleasant,” he said.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.