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Friday, October 25, 2013

Fairfax County needs to use humane methods to control deer population

A young deer in Luria Park in Annandale.
By Melissa Klein

There was a packed house of rapt animal welfare advocates at the quarterly luncheon hosted by Sandy Lerner at her Ayrshire Farm estate in Upperville, Va., recently. The riveting topic was an exciting new approach in managing wildlife called Deer Spay, or more technically known as ovariectomy. 

Enid Feinberg of Wildlife Rescue Inc., a local wildlife group based in Maryland, explained how her group participated in a successful three-year pilot program aimed at controlling the deer population by spaying female deer, thereby permanently preventing them from becoming pregnant. With this surgery, only the ovaries are removed, unlike the spaying of dogs and cats, which removes the uterus, as well as the ovaries.

The procedure is quick, safe, humane, efficient, and 100 percent effective. It is carried out by trained veterinarians and volunteers. The deer are injected by dart with a tranquilizer, carried to a mobile surgical unit where their ovaries are removed, then returned to the same location. 

Other deer population control approaches involving contraceptives are much more expensive and labor intensive, because the deer have to be captured and treated repeatedly. Deer Spay is permanent, so a deer only needs to be captured, handled, and treated once.

A nationally recognized wildlife expert, Dr. Anthony DeNicola, manages the operation in Maryland. He has been conducting contraceptive projects throughout the United States for the past 19 years. 

The wildlife advocacy group known as 21st Century Deer Management for Fairfax County would like to see the county adopt the Deer Spay program as an alternative to its bowhunting program. This year, the county has expanded deer hunting to more parks, including several in the Annandale/Mason area.


21st Century Deer Management has been urging Fairfax County to terminate its approach to killing deer and instead adopt more humane, collaborative, and comprehensive methods for controlling the deer population and explore the use of modern technology and solutions based on conflict resolution.

Proponents of hunting and killing deer have targeted pregnant or nursing deer because their need for higher caloric intake leads to increased foraging activity and thus more damage to the environment. But rather than solving the problem, 21st Century Deer Management believes herd-culling through the “hit and miss” nature of hunting causes the remaining fertile deer to breed back up to the habitat carrying capacity. 

There hasn’t been reliable reporting regarding actual deer population numbers, the group says. Typically, there are circumstantial estimates on browse-line damage and other studies. Research has found in suburban areas, deer movement within their range is very small. So, another benefit of spaying deer is the establishment of “infertile placeholders.” Spayed deer will not leave an area, and other deer will not enter into that area with any degree of frequency. 

Killing deer only to have them breed right back up to capacity is not an effective wildlife management approach, nor is it humane. In contrast, Deer Spay ensures that population numbers are sustainably limited in that territory—without harm to individual deer. 

To learn more about the “Don’t kill her…spay her” campaign and other effective, sustainable, and humane solutions to deer-human conflicts, contact 21st Century Deer Management for Fairfax County. The organization needs to raise funds to support its work. Please send donations to Pets Ltd. (Deer Fund), P.O. Box 7175, Fairfax Station, VA 22039.

14 comments:

  1. I had no idea this was even an option. This is really an interesting opportunity for Fairfax or for that matter any community! I just had my new puppy spayed last week so I am all for spaying the deer!

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    1. Hi Jerry G,
      This is an interesting solution isn't it. How much did it cost you to have your puppy spayed? ? ?
      See my point?

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  2. Incredible idea. I sure hope this can be done in our county and the killing of innocent deer year after year finally stopped.

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    1. I hope you are vegan. All animals are innocent. Buying meat at the grocer is an innocent chicken, cow, pig or fish.

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    2. I am a different anon, but I am trying to eat less meat - esp red meat - among other reasons, cows are significant emitters of green house gases. Thats an issue even if the cows are humanely slaughtered.

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  3. With so many families on free or reduced lunches in the Annandale area, you would think teaming up Hunters for the Hungry could solve both problems. Hunters get to hunt and practice their skills and the hungry get fed. http://www.h4hungry.org/index.htm

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  4. FANTASTIC way to manage wildlife without killing the animals we coexist with. Fairfax County could be the model for the nation if they added this humane option. A truly common sense approach - manage not kill.

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    1. It's interesting to me that people find any humanity at all in drugging an innocent animal and removing its reproductive organs, period.

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  5. I think it is inappropriate and unsafe that Public Parkland is opened to any small special interest group, to limit safe access and quiet enjoyment of the majority of citizens. Certainly, it is unacceptable that the inherently inhumane Bowhunting method to kill deer could be part of any "21st Century" Deer Management Program. This practice is incongruous and unacceptable in Fairfax County, indeed, NOVA, one of the most affluent and sophisticated jurisdictions/areas in VA, the United States, and arguably the entire world.

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    1. I believe I might take issue with the part of your comment that implies that these deer management practices that are in place, are hindering the ability of the 'majority of citizens' to enjoy the public lands safely at the expense of any special interest group whatsoever.
      Some of the same affluent sophisticated people that make up our commummnity, are avid sportsmen. To the best of my knowledge, bow hunters have yet to harm anyone out for a 'stroll in the woods'- the plain truth of the matter is, if you ever did go into one of these areas (which you can i.e., there are no restrictions preventing your access) you would'nt even know a bow hunter was there. Oh, the comment pertaining to "quite enjoyment"..... they are Bows.....

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  6. Feeding the hungry is a separate issue that should not be confused with whether killing deer helps solve any deer population problem or conflict. We could kill raccoons that forage in your garbage as some supposed "solution" to the two problems and feed them to the poor. People eat squirrels as well.
    Think of the amounts of food that is wasted and thrown out at the commercial (store and restaurant) level every day in our area. Surely, the disadvantaged that need and could enjoy more food would prefer some of it?

    Also, do your really think that deer carcasses with lead shot in them are more healthy and safe than these other potential donation sources? I think it is pretty obvious that hunters and their advocates are using this argument to whitewash their self-satisfying practice. And, certainly if you are going to kill any animal for any reason, it should be via the most expedient and humane way? Which we can't say about bows and arrows. (Otherwise, those Settlers beleaguered by Indians would have traded their guns in for the bows and arrows.)

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    1. Uhm... they are BOW HUNTERS - there is NO LEAD SHOT involved.

      Feeding the poor is one of several perks, to one of the current attempts to help rectify this problem. So it is part of 'this issue' - and unless you plan to feed the homeless with your tax dollars, or you personally donate to the needy (or you plan to feed them deer ovaries), the current deer managent practice serves many purposes. One could pose the question of the 'humanity' of ignoring the homeless, questioning the morality of sportsmen, while rationalizing that your veal chop came to you from a morally superior place. Really?

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  7. As long as they use private funds, go ahead and make my day. A by product, of cancelling the dear hunt, would be the less meat going to feed the homeless...

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  8. 3:16pm - Please! Hunting in a highly populated area would have to be done with bow and arrow. Have you any knowledge or experience shooting with a compound bow? Several restaurants in the area work with food banks and churches, to donate food, food liability laws have been changed to encourage donations. No whitewashing here, where there is a will there is a way. If archery was inhumane do you think VA Game and Inland Fisheries would allow it for hunting? Inhumane is deer dying from malnutrition due to large herd size and getting hit by vehicles. My taxes are high enough I don't need to pay for a service when you have people willing to do it at little or no cost.

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