View Full Version : VA: Fairfax Sponsors Deer Hunt in Laurel Hill Park

Bob S
11-25-2009, 08:49 PM
ARTICLE (http://connectionnewspapers.com/article.asp?article=335383&paper=81&cat=104)

Some residents say county should use other methods for controlling deer populations.

By Julia O'Donoghue
Wednesday, November 25, 2009

When Eileen Hanrahan discovered that Fairfax County was allowing bow and arrow deer hunts on local parkland, it did not sit well with her. So the Lorton resident, who lives near Fort Belvoir, started doing some research.

“I was troubled by what seemed to be the long-range plans to use bow hunting, I didn’t even know there was a deer management plan in Virginia before this,” said Hanrahan.

But what Hanrahan read about bow hunts worried her.

Some people have called bow hunting the least humane way to kill deer, since shooting an animal with an arrow can result in a slow death. Other reports she saw said deer hunts result in a higher number of car accidents locally because the panicked deer run out into the middle of highways and residential roads, she said.

“We need to manage the deer population but I don’t think all the community viewpoints have been taken into account. There is a better solution out there and it is troubling to me that we are using one that is upsetting a lot of people,” said Hanrahan.

“I think we need a fuller discussion of this. I am not sure if the implications of this particular choice were fully though through,” she added.

FAIRFAX COUNTY will launch its second bow and arrow hunt on public property this season at Laurel Hill Park Nov. 30. Archers will be allowed on the grounds on and off until Jan. 30.

The initial bow and arrow deer hunt, located in the Colvin Run area of Vienna, is already underway and has upset some local citizens who live near that North County park property. South County residents seem largely unaware that a second hunt will be underway in their area shortly.

“I wasn’t aware the bow hunt was happening,” said Mike Grogan, president of the South County Federation.

In the case of the Vienna bow hunt, residents living near the park property were informed in advance about the hunt through a letter from the Fairfax County Park Authority. It is unclear whether any resident lives close enough to the Laurel Hill hunt site to have received the same type of notice ahead of time.

The Belvoir Bow Hunters will be conducting the Laurel Hill park hunt. The group was one of two to win one of the county’s bow hunt slots during a lottery process.

The recreational and social group conducts hunts on Fort Belvoir’s grounds and helps maintain the army base’s archery facilities. The Belvoir Bow Hunters are also active in Hunters for the Hungry, which donates fresh deer and other types of meat culled from hunts to Virginia’s homeless shelters, according to the group’s Web site.

SOME RESIDENTS may be upset about the bow hunts but Fairfax County’s Environmental Quality Advisory Council, made up of 13 Fairfax residents, supported the government-sponsored hunts in the group’s recommendations to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

“This is a no-win situation. I don’t think anyone likes the idea of shooting animals. In a perfect world, we would have coyotes and wolves that would balance out the situation,” said Stella Koch, a Great Falls resident who heads the environmental council.

The overpopulation of deer is more than just a nuisance, said Koch. In addition to eating the landscaping planted in yards, deer are devouring local vegetation at an alarming rate, which has significant environmental implications.

“There are no baby trees to replace the big trees we have now that are going to die someday,” said Koch.

Deer can also pose a danger for humans. Fairfax reports 4,000 to 5,000 automobile crashes involving deer take place in the county each year. Overall, Virginia is ranked fifth among states in deer-related automobile accidents.

Deer are also associated with Lyme disease and other tick-born illnesses that are on the rise locally. In Fairfax, the rate of Lyme disease infection quadrupled from 2006 to 2007, according to county health officials.

"Think of the deer as a tick Metro system. It is better than the Metro system because the deer can take ticks all over the county," said Fairfax County Health Department staff member Jorge Arias in 2008.

FAIRFAX COUNTY has used lethal methods for controlling its deer population for the last decade. But, outside of pilot program conducted in Huntley Meadows Park several years ago, the locality has mostly relied on sharp shooters to kill off excess deer.

Several wildlife activists and archers said the county has turned to bow hunting because it is a cheap deer management tool.

Even when the county uses sharp shooters from its own police department, it has to pay the officers’ overtime. Bow hunters, on the other hand, will do the work for free.

But Hanrahan is uncomfortable with the prospect using bow hunting to help close Fairfax’s large budget shortfall, which is likely to result in a reduction of library hours, school and park programs next year.

“I guess that is not really an answer to me, that there are financial concerns. I would be able to pony up private contributions to pay for a more human approach to controlling the deer population in the county,” said Hanrahan.

Many archers reject the notion that bow hunting is somehow “less humane” than sharp shooting.

Many of the studies that indicate bow hunting results in larger numbers of woundings and slow deaths for deer than sharp shooting are out of date. They were conducted decades ago, before modern archery technology existed, said Eric Huppert, founder and president of Suburban Whitetail Management of Northern Virginia, an archery group that volunteers its time exclusively for deer management purposes.

Huppert’s group mostly works on private residential property and is conducting the Vienna hunt.

Huppert added that bow hunting is safer for humans that sharp shooting. The archers frequently stand on raised platforms 20 to 30 feet above the ground and have a much better view of what they are aiming at than shooters.

Since bow hunters shoot from high up in the air, their arrows are also much more likely to land directly in the ground if the archer misses a deer or the arrow passes through them, he said.

By contrast, bullets are not that easy to control because they have the ability to travel farther distances and are more likely to ricochet off of surfaces, said Huppert.