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Friday, October 7, 2011

Park users unaware FXCO is using bowhunters to reduce deer population

Deer on the Cross County Trail in Annandale, Oct. 4
It’s deer hunting season in Fairfax County parks, but most park users don’t seem to know much about it. All but one person the Annandale blogger encountered while on a walk along the Accotink Stream Valley were unaware that the county has authorized a group of hunters to use archery to control the deer population.

The Accotink Stream Valley, extending from near the Little River Turnpike exit on the beltway to Lake Accotink, is the only park in the Annandale area where bowhunting is allowed.

As Fairfax County biologist Vicky Monroe explained at public meetings this summer, there are strict rules regulating bowhunting to ensure public safety.
The county is supposed to put up signs warning people about the program, but the signs are hard to find. We completely missed the orange sign attached to a tree pictured here (between Camelot and the beltway), even though we were looking for it, but did notice it on the way back.
Yet nearly all of the dozen or so people spoke to on the Cross County Trail on a recent weekday afternoon—walking dogs, jogging, and enjoying nature with their young children—did not see the signs and had no idea that bowhunting is allowed. When told about the bowhunting program, most people expressed alarm.

The signs are confusing. They warn people to “stay on trail,” citing “deer management activity,”  but there is no mention of bowhunting. When we asked people if they know what “deer management” means, they had no idea it refers to people shooting arrows at deer.

There were no signs at the entrances to the trail, such as Americana Park, although with the trail running close to people’s backyards, you can access it from just about anywhere.

We didn’t see any evidence that hunting was going on, although the one person we met who knew about the bowhunting program said that on a previous walk she had seen a deer carcass and an elevated tree stand used by hunters. The county’s archery rules require hunters to remove the bodies of any deer they shoot.

We saw a couple of deer on the trail, and we hope they will survive the bowhunting season, which runs until Feb. 11.


  1. Would you rather see a bow hunter or a starving deer? The reality is the land in and around Annandale is overpopulated with deer and the herd needs to be reduced. While there may be much food for them to eat in the spring/summer/fall - these deer will be starving when winter comes around, and thats the wrong way for these wonderful animals to die.

    Much of the deer meat is also donated to Hunters for the Hungry, which provides meat to many of our local impoverished families and soup kitchens.

    Its a win-win folks.

  2. Whether bowhunting is the best way to address deer overpopulation or not, the county needs to do a better job warning park users about it.

  3. This is a good thing, people.

    These people are authorized by the county to hunt here for several purposes: to prevent deer-related auto (and aircraft) accidents; preserve the native flora, as the increasing number of deer means more deer eating plants (including residents' gardens/shrubs/etc); et cetera. As a resident who cares greatly about the environment and maintaining balance within it: This is a good thing!!!!

    More signs should definitely be placed on trails and near affected woodlands, to inform nearby residents... people like to know what's going on behind their homes, even though it may not be "necessary" for them to know (accidental casualties are really very unlikely).

    Straying from the footpath is not necessarily DANGEROUS, however, as the hunters are specially selected for their superiority of skill and soundness of ethics. No need for panic!

    There are not many other methods that are normally used to control deer populations.
    There's the tedious process of sterility darts, aimed at does one by one to prevent them from bearing offspring (ideal for smaller, naturally contained areas -- i.e., Fire Island, NY... was only relatively effective).

    #2: Physical relocation of individual deer is highly ineffective as far as costs (and ethics!) are concerned: the deer have no natural feeding patterns in the new environment, and are essentially confused to death.

  4. Deer-related aircraft accidents? Really? How does that happen? Oh, wait - maybe you mean the reindeer pulling Santa's sled, although I've never heard of them involved in a collision.