From left, deer management experts Kristen Sinclair, Kevin Rose and Jerry Peters.
Experts Discuss Deer Control issues
Hundreds of deer are eating tree limbs in the national parks and decorative hastas in gardens, and short of introducing wolves to the area, residents want to get rid of them.
Great Falls Citizens Association had three local deer management experts discuss what the residents’ options were April 8 at a town hall meeting at The Grange.
All three said there is no way of knowing how many deer are in the area. However, because there is no natural predator, the deer population has boomed.
“We hear a lot that we have destroyed the deer’s natural habitat,” said Kevin Rose, State Department of Game & Inland Fisheries certified wildlife biologist. “Actually, we created a better deer habitat by building suburbia.”
He said deer like areas that are on the edge of the forest, which is why they are found in Great Falls.
“We know about 1,500 deer are killed through hunting every year, on average,” said Kristen Sinclair, Fairfax County Park Authority.
She said another 1,000 deer are killed in vehicle accidents. However, these accidents can be dangerous for the driver as well.
THE LAST LOCAL FATAL COLLISION was October 1997 in McLean. The accident led the Fairfax County to adopt a deer management plan that is currently managed by the Fairfax County Police Department.
The parks, Sinclair said, use managed hunting, sharp-shooting and archery to thin the deer population. Each of the methods is highly regulated and a lot of the venison is donated to Hunters for the Hungry. Non-lethal methods, such as sterilization, are currently being tested in the county, but are not allowed outside the test site.
Rose said homeowners can take the matter into their own hands by regularly using natural repellants on plants, such as eggs, raw garlic and pepper. However, if the deer is hungry enough, they will still eat the plant. Also, the repellants need to be reapplied every time it rains.
“You have to do it before they learn that this is where they’re eating the buffet,” he said.
He said guard dogs are also a very effective method of getting rid of deer. However, the best method - he said - is to hunt the does. The less does there are, the less fawns Great Falls will see each spring.
He said the more human ways to get rid of deer are to kill it with a high power crossbow in an elevated stand. Trap transfer tends to stress the deer into cardiac arrest and meat from deer that take certain contraceptives cannot be consumed.
Green Fire founder and Great Falls resident Jerry Peters talked about his own efforts to reduce the deer population in his neighborhood. He said the deer on his private property became very tame before he started hunting them with a crossbow. At one point, he saw 13 in his yard.
AT THAT POINT, he decided to take action. He surveyed his neighbors to find who would want to help thin the deer, who would allow hunting on their property and who would allow deer to be tracked through their property.
“The greatest support came from the long-term owners, the people who have been there for a long time and remembered what the forest looked like in the ‘80s.”
He agreed it is difficult to know exactly how many deer are in Great Falls, but he guessed it could be 100 per square mile.
“It’s not about nature anymore,” said Rose. “We’ve taken out the wolves. We’ve taken out the cougars. We can manage the resource, but will our culture let us?”
To take GFCA’s deer managment and forest health survey, visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LN757YT.