People concerned about animal welfare are taking a dim view of Fairfax County’s “deer management” program, which includes bowhunting in 19 parks including the Accotink Stream Valley in Annandale.
“Bowhunting is inefficient and inhumane,” says Melissa Klein, who is also involved with animal rescue efforts, as well as a group known as 21st Century Deer Management for Fairfax County, which opposes bowhunting in county parks. People who want the county to end its archery program are encouraged to sign a petition on the group’s website.
Klein says bow-and-arrow hunting is not the best way to reduce the deer population. “You’d have to kill huge amounts of deer to have an impact,” Klein says. And there’s a chance a deer could be wounded and run off rather than die immediately. “Do you want your child exposed to a deer running through the neighborhood with an arrow in it?”
While some animal welfare activists oppose any killing of deer, Klein suggests the use of sharpshooters would be a better alternative than bowhunting. Fairfax County has authorized sharpshooting in some parks. It’s done at night by paid professionals using night-vision glasses. Bowhunters are volunteers.
“Humane ethics would require controlling deer in the most efficient way and doing it in a way that causes the least suffering and pain and without inconveniencing people who use the parks,” Klein says. The group has also complained that the signs posted by the county at parks where bowhunting is going on are inadequate and misleading.
She says the 21th Century Deer Management group recommends a “conflict resolution approach” to addressing the deer problem, which involves defining the issues where deer and humans are in conflict and coming up with solutions.
For example, if the problem is car collisions involving deer, that can be addressed through better signs, reflectors, and sound alert systems that deter deer from crossing streets. The county claimed it couldn’t afford those things, Klein says, but could have applied for grant funds.
Another problem is Lyme disease caused by deer carrying ticks. Klein suggests that can be addressed through a “4-Poster Bait Station,” which lures deer to a stand with corn feed. As they brush against it, they are sprayed with a pesticide that kills ticks. This system is being used in many other states.
The 21st Century Deer Management group recommends the use of wildlife migratory passages, like culverts and overpasses, and fencing to protect underbrush and other plants. And it also urges the county to try immuno-contraception as a safe and humane alternative to hunting.
The main push for killing deer is coming from the hunting lobby and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which receives substantial revenue from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.