- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

PORT DEPOSIT, Md. (AP) In a town where deer outnumber people 3-to-1, the sight of buck roaming downtown streets is not unusual.

The 2,000 deer that roam the 1,200 acres of the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center nearby often wander downtown, sometimes creating problems in the town of 680.

For example, one deer, hit by a car, ran several blocks before taking refuge under a front porch.

To lower the deer population, Mayor Wayne Tome, Town Council members and others have proposed a controlled hunt at Bainbridge, noting hunters are already sneaking on the property to bag deer illegally.

"It came up in conversation because we've had the illegal hunting up there," said Mr. Tome, who is president of the Town Council.

But the council is not close to a vote on the issue, and since deer-hunting season ends Jan. 31, a decision likely will have to wait another year.

Area hunters say the base's abandoned buildings and brush would make for challenging hunting, but it's illegal to discharge firearms in Bainbridge, as it is on all private property inside town limits.

Five suspected poachers have been arrested this year in Bainbridge by Police Chief Mark Tomlin and his two-member police force.

"[Illegal hunting] seemed to be kind of an accepted fact," Chief Tomlin said. "The hunters who come here, they aren't bad people. They just think it's their right. We have to respectfully disagree with their ideas about that."

The town has formed the quasipublic Bainbridge Development to develop the land. But Chief Tomlin worries about the prospect of poachers shooting at deer while workers are on the property.

"How do you attract [developers] when you can't prove to them you can keep the area safe?" he asked.

The police chief is in charge of determining how a hunt might be conducted, but he is concerned about creating a climate in which a person could carry and fire weapons in town.

"I'm trying to run right down the middle with this. I'm not going to make a decision until I talk to all the experts who know about this," Chief Tomlin said. "But if the council comes up with holding the hunt, it's my job to make sure it's done the right way."

Maryland Natural Resources Police Officer Charlie Kelso, who is also the region's game warden, said the town could hold a hunt or lease the property to a hunting club.


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