- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007



Sharpshooters still a deer-control option

Taking aim at the deer population in Catoctin Mountain Park continues to be an option for the National Park Service.

About two dozen people attended a public meeting Saturday to comment on a proposed plan to reduce the park’s deer population from a high in 2004 of 193 per square mile down to about 15 to 20 per square mile.

A deer survey from fall 2006 estimated that the current deer population was about 88 per square mile.

The drop has been attributed to hunting pressure outside the park, said Scott Bates, a Park Service regional wildlife biologist. He also said the state’s implementation of liberal bag limits of up to 36 deer for bow, muzzleloader and firearms seasons played a role.

“That and it was pretty close to 200 deer per square mile. There wasn’t much left for the deer to feed on,” he said.

The Park Service announced last month that using sharpshooters was the preferred alternative to reduce the herd. It also is considering the use of current monitoring programs, birth control and fencing as other alternatives.

Reducing the deer population will help restore balance to the park’s ecosystem. Fewer deer will allow the native plant species they eat to grow back.

“Every park in the region — in the East — is experiencing deer problems,” said Diane Pavek, a botanist for the Park Service’s National Capital Region.

Open space in urban areas is contributing to the problem, Miss Pavek said. Deer feed on woodland edges and in open areas and return to the mountain at night, she said.


Body found in woods had been strangled

The woman whose body was found Saturday in a rural area was a homicide victim, Baltimore County police said.

An autopsy revealed that the woman had been strangled, police said.

The body was found by cyclists on Caves Road near the intersection Park Heights Avenue.

Police have not identified the woman. They think she was 25 to 40 years old.


Officers kill man who fired at them

Officers fatally shot a man Saturday night after the man fired on them, Baltimore County police said.

Yesterday, the man was identified as Justin Wylbzynski, 21, of Berwick, Pa., who was in Baltimore County visiting friends. Police say he was involved in an argument at the bar of the Silver Dome Lounge. When officers arrived, he got into his car and drove off. Police, who were told he had a gun, pursued him.

After driving a short distance, police said Mr. Wylbzynski jumped out of his car with the engine running, and he walked toward officers firing at them with a handgun. Officers returned fire and struck Mr. Wylbzynski, who was pronounced dead at a hospital.

None of the officers was shot, although several bullets went through the windshield of one police car.

The three officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave.



Growing dredge pile raises concerns

Craney Island’s ever-growing mountain of river bottom dredge materials is worrying nearby residents, and Portsmouth officials may soon ask state legislators and members of Congress to push for a moratorium on upward expansion of the site.

The disposal site, which is run by the Army Corps of Engineers, has been packing river bottom into its 4 square miles since the 1950s.

The island originally was planned to receive 3.5 million to 5 million cubic yards of dredge material per year, said William Sorrentino, chief of the engineering, construction and operations division of the Corps of Engineers in Norfolk.

But the deepening of the harbor and construction of new terminals in Portsmouth recently has contributed to about 10 million cubic yards of dredged materials from the Elizabeth River being deposited on Craney Island, Mr. Sorrentino said.

“I’m hearing they are planning to go five stories high,” said Sherri Neil, the city’s senior legislative and management analyst. “That’s quite a high mountain of mud.”

The Craney Island Study Commission and Portsmouth leaders will ask state legislators to study the impact of further elevation. Because Craney Island is federally owned, city leaders plan to work with their congressional delegation to seek a moratorium.

But that could have an impact on the important local shipping industry, Mr. Sorrentino said.

It costs just 86 cents per cubic yard to put dredged material from Hampton Roads channels onto Craney Island, he said. It would cost about $10 per cubic yard to put it into the ocean.

“It’s really the thing that keeps the port of Virginia and Norfolk so competitive in the shipping industry,” he said.

Residents say the towering heap of mud has destroyed the harbor’s view from Portsmouth.

There are also environmental concerns, said Dr. John Hollowell, a retired physician who has lived near Craney Island for decades and is the chairman of the commission.

Crabs and fish are dwindling, and several months ago, people reported that a green-black muck — in some places 12 inches thick — was coating the river bottom west of the dredge spoils area, he said.

The Corps of Engineers found the muck was harmless

“In our mind, it’s determined,” Dr. Hollowell said. “When you see something coming out of the contained area into a clean area and contaminating it, it doesn’t take a stretch of imagination to know what’s happening.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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