|A deer in Annandale Community Park.|
Residents living near these parks were sent a warning letter July 29 from Fairfax County Animal Control Director Michael J. Lucas, who actually retired in June. The fact that the form letter hadn’t been updated raises concerns about how well the deer program is being managed.
Fairfax County has allowed deer hunting by archery in selected parks since 2009. This is the first time it’s being allowed in what the letter refers to as the “Annandale Cluster.” Up to now, the Accotink Stream Valley in Wakefield Park was only park in the Annandale area where deer hunting was allowed. Deer hunting by sharpshooters also takes place in more remote areas of the county.
The archery program will be conducted between Sept. 7, 2013, and Feb. 15, 2014, by archery groups that have been approved by Fairfax County, the letter states. All shooting must be done from elevated tree stands that are placed at least 100 feet from park boundaries and at least 50 feet from established park trails.
The parks will not be closed during hunting activities, so people walking, biking, or otherwise enjoying nature could come across hunters shooting at deer or injured and dying deer. There are supposed to be signs posted at park entrances and along trails warning people that “deer management” activities are taking place. Hunting is not permitted on Sundays.
Archery groups can apply for the program online. “An archery group is comprised of qualified hunters who have demonstrated superior marksmanship and skill,” the letter states, and these groups are “closely monitored” by the the Animal Control Services Division of the Fairfax County Police Department.
According to the letter, the deer population needs to be culled because it “exceeds the carrying capacity that our remaining native habitats can sustain.” The deer are eating so much vegetation, they are having a negative impact on other wildlife. Other problems associated with deer include vehicle collisions and Lyme disease.
Animal rights organizations oppose deer hunting, calling the practice inhumane, ineffective, and dangerous to park users. They have proposed alternative solutions, such as 4-Poster stations to kill deer ticks and the DeerDeter system to discourage deer from crossing roads.