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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sharpshooters take down seven deer at Green Spring Gardens

Deer at Green Spring Gardens.
Fifty deer were killed in Mason District parks during the 2014-15 season, including seven shot by sharpshooters at Green Spring Gardens, says Katherine Edwards, the wildlife management specialist for Fairfax County. Archers using crossbows were responsible for the rest.

Edwards gave a presentation at the third and final installment of Mason Supervisor Penny Gross’ Civic Leadership series March 28, along with animal control officers and representatives from the Animal Shelter. 

Three sharpshooter sessions took place at Green Spring Gardens, on Dec. 4, 8, and 11. Corn was used as bait to drive deer to the middle of the lawn, where they were shot by Fairfax County police officers.

Among the Mason District parks where archery was allowed during the 2014-15 season, 28 deer were killed in the Accotink Stream Valley Park-North, seven at Roundtree Park, four at Mason District Park, three at Holmes Run Stream Valley Park, and one at Lillian Carey Park.

The John and Margaret White Horticultural Park in Mason District was taken off the list of parks for the archery program because the neighbors were upset when they saw hunters putting up tree stands, Gross said. According to Edwards, the archery program might be expanded to Bren Mar Park next year.  

The deer management program is driven by the need to prevent roadway accidents, habitat destruction, and the spread of Lyme disease, Edwards said. Wildlife experts say a healthy population of deer would be 15 to 20 per square mile. In many areas of Fairfax County there are 30 to 40 deer – and as many as 100 in some places – per square mile. 

There were 4,000 to 5,000 reported deer-vehicle collisions in the county last year, but Edwards says there were many more that weren’t reported. A single contractor picked up 1,800 dead deer from roadsides last year, she noted.    

Gross said there were lots of complaints about accidents involving deer on Sleepy Hollow Road near the  Congressional School, and some people were disturbed when they saw the police shoot an injured deer. There have also been lots of collisions on Little River Turnpike by the beltway.

The county uses archery, sharpshooting, and managed hunts to reduce the deer population on county-owned land from September through the end of February. Managed hunts are limited to the Sully Districts. Archers have to be licensed and pass a test. They also have to follow a number of other regulations, including reporting all contacts with the public. Changes to take effect next year include larger IDs displayed by hunters and more warning signs in parks.
According to Gross, the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood contracted privately with a hunter group, Suburban White Tail Management of Northern Virginia, to use bowhunting to kill deer on their property. “We can’t come onto your property,” Edwards said, “but we can help you find resources.”

When asked about more humane methods of reducing the deer population, Edwards noted by the City of Fairfax has a pilot sterilization program that has spayed 36 deer in the past two years. The cost is about $1,500 per deer. “We’re anxious to see the results of the Fairfax study,” she said, but noted a program like might limit births but won’t limit the overall deer population.

Fairfax County is conducting a study of the effectiveness of the “4-poster” method for killing the ticks on deer that spread Lyme disease. This method involves setting out feeding stations where deer have to rub against a post spread with pesticide to get to the food.

A young goose at Green Spring Gardens.
 The other wildlife population control program operated by the county targets Canada Geese. County staff, joined by volunteers, carry out “egg addling” during March through June on county-owned land. The eggs are coated with 100 percent corn oil, which prevents the embryos from developing. Individuals and homeowner associations can apply to the county to conduct egg addling on their property.

The Lake Barcroft Association uses a combination of egg addling and border collies to chase away the geese along with landscaping aimed at discouraging nesting. In three years, the number of resident geese pairs at the lake was reduced from 124 to four.  

Barbara Hutcherson, animal care coordinator and acting animal operations director, spoke about the services provided at the newly renovated Animal Shelter, which has plenty of outdoor space for dogs and individually ventilated “cat condos.”

The shelter, described by Hutcherson as an “animal resource center,” takes in about 4,000 to 5,000 dogs a year. As an “open access center,” the shelter has to take in any dog brought there. 

About 100 animal rescue groups and more than 200 active volunteers supplement the shelter staff. The shelter has a large foster program, with volunteers taking dogs home on Sundays and Mondays when the shelter is closed to see how they behave in a home.

More than 91 percent of stray dogs sent to the shelter are reclaimed by their owners, Hutcherson said. More than half of the people who come to adopt a pet saw a picture of the animal they want on the shelter’s Facebook page.

Rico is at the shelter [Mary O'Malley]
The shelter keeps pets on a temporary basis if the owner has to move to a shelter, spays and neuters the pets at no charge, and finds a new home for them if necessary. That’s important, Hutcherson said, because people sometimes stay in abusive situations because they’re worried about leaving their pets.

There used to be restrictions on adoptions of dogs “that look like pit bulls,” she said, but now they’re treated like any dog. “All dogs are individuals.”

Capt. John Naylor, an animal control officer with the Police Department, said the county is considering a “tethering ordinance” to ensure dogs are not tied up outside for long periods of time. The county is also considering adopting a code to prevent cruelty to animals, which would have more teeth than the state law on protecting animals.

Animal control officers can only write a ticket for an animal-related offense if they observe the incident. If a neighbor complains about a problem, such as a dog pooping on their lawn, an officer would follow up with a personal visit, Naylor said, but “it usually doesn’t stick until you send a letter and threaten to take them to court.”

Any animal that bites a person while off leash has to be quarantined – either at home or at the shelter – for 10 days. A dog that attacks and severely bites a person could be labeled a “dangerous dog,” and the owner might have to go to court and post signs on their house warning of a “vicious dog.” A dog bites that someone severely enough to cause disfigurement, such as the case of a dog that bit off a child’s ear, won’t be going home.


  1. Probably wouldn't have this crazy deer problem if Penny Gross hadn't allowed so many white vans to turn Mason into a cesspool.


  2. I like deer. I'm sure they killed off all the ones that I've seen wandering near my yard. Too bad. They had names. RIP deer who wandered near my yard.

    1. They're harmless creatures who stick to themselves and generally don't create problems other than munching on the occasional rose bush. The rationale for hunting them seems loosely related to keeping them off the roads, but I have yet to actually encounter one. Personally, I'd just as soon keep the deer and get rid of the cross bow hunters. That form of hunting is barbaric and typically results in the deer suffering an agonizing death.

    2. 7 Corners 74/1/15, 7:33 AM

      You named them but then you refer to them as "deer who wandered near my yard"? That seems a little odd.

      RIP Fred
      RIP Doughboy

      I have/had deer in my yard at night. I do not mind them but I am scared they will get hit by a car.

    3. Yes. I can't remember any of their names. It has been a while since I've seen them. I would have just given them new names upon seeing them again :( which I might never :(

    4. 7 Corners 74/1/15, 2:35 PM

      @Anonymous4/1/15, 7:06 AM

      They are not entirely harmless and if left unchecked would breed to a point of failure. I would rather see a few deer culled than see a lot of deer starve.

      Here is an interesting article on the numbers of deer that gets extra points for mentioning Fairfax County:

  3. "There were 4,000 to 5,000 reported deer-vehicle collisions in the county last year..."

    That's the approximate number of collisions for the entire Commonwealth.