Thirty-one years ago, when T. A. Daniel signed on as a fish and game enforcement officer in Loudoun County there was hardly a deer to be had in his area.

"If you told someone you saw a deer he'd think you were lying," Daniel said.

"Eighteen years ago I had to fight to get a (hunting) season opened at all. People told me, 'There are not 10 deer in the county, and you want to kill them."

"That was the farmers talking. And now it's just the reverse. The deer are eating their gardens and cornfields."

Nobody is worried about any shortage of deer in Loudoun County anymore. If anything, in some places people are worried about too many.

"We're here a little late," Daniel said last week as he cruised past the guard station and into Xerox's 2,250-acre training center off Rte. 7. "First light would be better." It was 6 a.m. on a rainy spring day.

He hadn't driven 50 yards before the first small group of deer looked up from the edge of the two-lane black top, where they were browsing on the bottom leaves of trees.

"See how small they are?" Daniel asked. Indeed, the deer appeared smaller than the average Virginia whitetail, though such things are hard to tell in the field.

There were five in that bunch. They stood munching as Daniel stopped the car and rolled down the window. They showed no fear of man or machine.

A half-hour later he had completed the circuit drive around the 3 1/2-square-mile tract, never leaving the road or the car. He'd counted 29 deer.

"That's nothing," Daniel said. "Come here some evening in the fall and you might see 80 or 90. Sometimes they're in herds, 20 or 30 together."

Having lots of deer around is nice if you like to watch them, as anyone in his right mind would.

But is it healthy?

Daniel doesn't think so. Nor does the state game biologist for the area, Max Carpenter. They both believe there are too many deer on the Xerox land, and they think something needs to be done.

A year and a half ago Carpenter and Daniel proposed to Xerox that the company allow a controlled deer hunt to thin out the herd.

Carpenter said local Xerox officials seemed inclined to agree to the plan at the time, but then it apparently was squelched as the company cited a danger to students using the facility if a firearms hunt were inaugurated.

Daniel guesses that today 400 to 500 deer call the Xerox property home. Carpenter said the recognized optimal population level for deer in that type of terrain is 15 to 20 per square mile. At Xerox it's probably well over 100 per square mile.

Game managers say the dangers facing crowded deer herds are starvation, disease, predation and accidents. So far only accidents have taken a significant toll at Xerox.

According to Daniel there are 50 to 70 road kills a year along the stretch of Rte. 7 that borders the Xerox land.

But he and Carpenter also have seen browse lines from deer feeding at Xerox in the winter. A browse line is what's left on trees after deer run out of ground food. They nip at stems and twigs as high as they can reach, denuding branches.

Browse lines indicate deer have run out of foods they prefer. "There are big honeysuckle thickets down there, but by the end of winter there isn't a leaf left on any of them," Daniel said.

He contends further that the deer are stunted by inbreeding and the limited amount of food.

Jack Rayborne, chief of the state's game division, cited a concern about disease when deer are packed tightly in an area.

The worst of these, he said, is a hemmorhagic disease in which the animals' blood vessels rupture and they bleed to death internally. The disease is transmitted by insects, tears through a crowded herd "like a brush fire," he said, and can be transmitted as well to nearby deer herds.

Rayborne suggested that a controlled hunt at Xerox might be the lesser of two evils.

"If they're not taking any deer out of there at all, it's just a matter of time before they're in there shoulder to shoulder," he said.

"If they don't remove the surplus, Mother Nature will, and she's not as lenient as we are.

"She's a grim reaper. There's no old folks home for sick or starving deer.

All wildlife dies a violent death -- either by the fang, the claw, disease, starvation or accident."

For their part, Xerox officials say there will be no change in the no-hunting policy. "At this time we have no plans to allow a controlled hunt," said public relations official Harriette Behringer, declining to elaborate.

Behringer said a study Xerox did indicated there was no problem with overbreeding at the Leesburg facility and that the deer were healthy.

Jim Compher, who is head groundskeeper, said the only survey he knew of was conducted in 1974, when the facility opened.

The Xerox land is something of an island, bordered on three sides by Goose Creek, the Potomac River and Rte. 7.It's lovely and well-maintained, with grassy fields which deer love. The deer have clearly adapted to living in close quarters with hundreds of Xerox students, who jog and hike the same trails the animals use.

The question is how long this peaceable kingdom can go on before the animal population exceeds the capacity of the land to support it.

Game managers contend a one- or two-day controlled hunt each winter, perhaps during Christmas week when the facility is almost empty, could check expansion of the deer herd and create better conditions for the deer that remain.

One alternative to that would be a trap and transplant program, which involves catching some deer and putting them in deer-poor places elsewhere in the state.

Behringer said that option has been suggested. But Raybourne, the state game division chief, said it would be too expensive. Besides, he said, "We have overpopulations of deer in many places in Virginia anyway. We don't need them to restock anywhere."

Lest anyone should get the notion he would be doing a good turn by sneaking on the Xerox property to hunt deer next fall, it should be noted that as long as hunting is barred by the landowners, Daniel patrols it. With a vengeance.

"I probably spend a full day a week there looking for poachers in season," he said. He has caught plenty, and they have paid stiff fines.