Has your garden been damaged by hungry deer?
Local master gardeners with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Arlington and Alexandria City program are asking residents to fill out an anonymous survey about the impact of deer on private property.
“Information gathered will assist Extension Master Gardeners as they interact with the public on landscape management, urban agriculture education and future outreach programs,” per a release, adding that the survey will be open until March 30 and results available in April.
Meanwhile, this evening (Wednesday), the association of master gardeners, the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists (ARMN), and others, are sponsoring a webinar with a professor who will discuss ways to address Arlington’s reported deer overpopulation issue.
“Deer are charismatic native species that belong in our fields and forests,” Cornell University professor Bernd Blossey said in a statement. “Humans have allowed them to become ecological bullies, and if we are serious about our responsibilities to protect all native species, we need to embrace the need to reduce deer impacts through reductions in the local deer herds.”
The groups hosting the survey and webinar are sounding the alarm on the impacts of deer, including the loss of understory foliage, and saying their current efforts — like protecting native plants with deer-proof cages — are not enough.
“Our suburban forests are dominated by a few native species that deer don’t find appetizing, like Spicebush and Pawpaws, and lots of harmful exotic invasive plants that deer won’t eat,” per ARMN’s website. “Early attempts at habitat restoration were frustrated when overabundant deer devoured the large native plantings.”
The study and webinar come about six months after a wildlife consultant began working with the county to determine if Arlington’s natural lands can support the current deer population and whether the county needs to step up management.
Prior to this, the county had its deer population counted by drone and a report summarizing what the drone recorded found parts of Arlington had populations of 20-39 deer per square mile, which it said was “unhealthy.”
But not everyone agrees with this assessment. Arlington County’s animal control group, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA), maintains that the issue is not the number but how humans interact with them.
“Many conflicts with deer in our gardens are a result of planting ornamental non-native plants that are irresistible to deer,” Chief of Animal Control Jennifer Toussaint said in a statement to ARLnow.
“Deer will always seek out tasty hostas and tulips first, regardless of the amount of deer present,” she continued. “The best way to mitigate deer eating from your yard is to plant deer-resistant plant species, erect fencing, and utilize repellents. One or a combination of these techniques is an effective and humane way to co-exist with deer.”
Toussaint said AWLA is working with the county throughout the deer study.
A murder of crows is set to fly from Shirlington soon, which may mean less bird poop around a shopping center and apartment complex.
Droppings are once again scattered over pavement patches, planters and awnings around the retail center. The yearly return of crows to Shirlington is partly to blame, but so are a number of other birds, like sparrows, pigeons and grackles, says Catherine Sevcenko, of Diva Crows, an organization in Northern Virginia that cares for injured crows and ravens.
Every winter, crows have flocked to the neighborhood, bombarding surfaces with droppings. The crows largely hang out around a CVS at 4060 Campbell Avenue, a Village at Shirlington parking garage at 2700 S. Quincy Street, and The Citizen at Shirlington Village apartment complex at 3000 S. Randolph Street, according to Sevcenko.
Around this time last year, Federal Realty Investment Trust — which owns the shopping center — tried releasing a grape-scented artificial fog to deter the crows from perching in the trees.
This concerned Sevcenko, who says that at this point in the season “the best mitigation measure is patience.”
“The crows will be completely gone soon, as they are in the process of dispersing to their home territories to begin nest-building,” she said. “The chicks hatch early — at the end of March — because they take a relatively long time to mature, about 6-8 weeks.”
Not everyone has patience for the persistent poopers, however.
“This is disgusting!” one anonymous tipster, who sent a photo above, wrote to ARLnow. “The entire sidewalk surrounding the property is covered in bird poop. So many complaints and they won’t do anything about it. What’s the point in having a sidewalk when you have to walk in the middle of the street to avoid getting pooped on.”
A representative with the Citizen at Shirlington Village apartment complex said the area around the building is power-washed twice a week.
“We can’t control the crows or the poop,” he said. “It’s all around, everywhere — the shopping center, the restaurants — all have crow poop. It’s not just Citizen.”
Yesterday morning (Tuesday), before most shops were open, flocks of sparrows could be heard chittering and seen perching in leafless trees. Our poop-shoe reporting found that a few people who work in retail there appreciate the regular power-washing in the early morning hours, with a CVS employee noting that he thinks the scat situation has improved.
Two staff members at the smoothie shop Robeks described how the crows perch in the trees at night and likened the sound of falling feces to rain. They say the excrement doesn’t ruffle the feathers of customers, but added that they aren’t sure how effective previous deterrent efforts were.
That’s perhaps because there are other birds inexorably drawn to the neighborhood, says Sevcenko.
“If you look at the droppings, they are all different sizes, which would suggest they come from different birds,” she said. “The streaks on the planters come from a bird perching on the edge, which a crow is unlikely to do because it would not feel safe perching that close to the ground with people around. A sparrow or pigeon are the more likely culprits. Which is not to exonerate the crows completely, but people have to learn to live with their urban avian neighbors.”
Power-washing and a product called Poop Off will clean surfaces but the birds are likely to keep coming back, she said. Like the humans who come to Shirlington, birds are likely also fans of the local eateries.
“I imagine that there will always be some crows around because of all the restaurants and thus dumpsters with food,” said Sevcenko.
Gun Violence Rally Planned — “A National Gun Violence Awareness Day rally will be held Saturday in Arlington. The rally will be held by the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that supports stricter gun laws, at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Hope Garden near Courthouse Plaza in Arlington.” [Patch]
Animal Control Rescues Bald Eagle — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “Our animal control officers were all very surprised this weekend when a call about a large bird behaving oddly turned out to be a fledgeling bald eagle! He is now with a licensed wildlife rehabber and when he’s feeling better we hope to release him back into the wild!” [Twitter]
Blood Drive this Weekend — “Fire Works American Pizzeria and Bar is partnering with Inova Blood Donor Services to host an Arlington Community Blood Drive on Monday, June 6.” [Patch]
Pride Month Events at Library — Pride Month starts today and Arlington Public Library has a page with LGBTQIA+ book lists, stories and history discussions. The library is also hosting a series of Pride Month events. [Arlington Public Library]
It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 89 and low of 73. Sunrise at 5:46 am and sunset at 8:29 pm. [Weather.gov]
Arlington has another fox rabies case — maybe two.
A sick fox captured by animal control along Washington Blvd, between East Falls Church and Westover, has tested positive for rabies, according to an announcement from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. Another sick fox was seen on video, taken in the neighborhood surrounding Wakefield High School, but has not been located, AWLA said.
Those incidents follow AWLA’s warning last week of a potentially rabid fox in the Arlingwood neighborhood, as well as a similar warning in early February after an aggressive fox attacked pets and, reportedly, at least one person in the Gulf Branch neighborhood.
ALWA, which handles animal control for Arlington County, said that residents should remain vigilant, take precautions with pets, and contact the animal control office immediately if they see “any animal that appears sick, lethargic, disoriented, or aggressive.”
More from AWLA, below.
Confirmed rabid fox in Highland Park neighborhood: on Wednesday April 27th, 2022 in the afternoon Arlington County Animal Control received a call about a sick fox in the 6200 block of Washington Boulevard. The fox had neurological signs consistent with rabies, and was captured and removed by Animal Control after exposing a domestic pet. The fox was tested and came back clinically positive for rabies.
Additionally, Animal Control was recently provided footage of a potentially sick fox in the Claremont neighborhood. That footage was provided 4 days after the event, and therefore no fox has been located and no other sightings have occurred at this time. Rabies is a disease that people and animals can catch from the bite or scratch of infected animals. It is fatal if medical care is not given promptly. If you, your child, or your pet may have come into contact with this fox or any wild animal, please call Arlington County Animal Control at 703-931-9241 immediately, after hours please stay on the line to speak with the answering service who will alert an officer.
Residents are encouraged to:
- Ensure pets are up to date on their rabies and distemper vaccines.
- Keep dogs on a leash at all times and keep cats inside.
- Check backyards before letting pets or children outside and monitor them at all times.
- Do not approach or feed any wild animals.
- Feed pets inside.
- Remove wildlife attractants from yards, such as unsecured garbage cans, open containers of food, and compost.
Animal Control is also urging all residents in Arlington County to remain vigilant and if they see any animal that appears sick, lethargic, disoriented, or aggressive to stay away from the animal and call Animal Control immediately: 703-931-9241. If you come across a deceased rabies vector animal (including cats, dogs, foxes, raccoons, bats and groundhogs) in your yard or a public space please also contact Animal Control promptly and do not handle the animal.
A fox with “neurological signs consistent with rabies” has been captured this morning in the Arlingwood neighborhood near Chain Bridge, officials say.
The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is warning residents, particularly those in the area where the fox was found, to keep pets inside or on a leash — and to keep those pets up to date on rabies and distemper vaccines. If people or their pets potentially came into contact with the fox, they’re being encouraged to call animal control.
More from an AWLA social media post:
*Notice to Arlington Co residents* – on April 26, 2022 at approximately 7:45am, Arlington County Animal Control responded to calls about a disoriented fox in the Arlingwood neighborhood near the 4100 blocks of 41 St and Randolph Street N, south-east of Chain Bridge Rd and George Washington Pkwy. The fox had neurological signs consistent with rabies, and was captured and removed by Animal Control. Rabies is a disease that people and animals can catch from the bite or scratch of infected animals. It is fatal if medical care is not given promptly. If you, your child, or your pet may have come into contact with this fox, please call Arlington County Animal Control at (703) 931-9241 immediately.
Residents are encouraged to: ensure pets are up to date on their rabies and distemper vaccines – keep dogs on a leash at all times and keep cats inside – do not approach or feed any wild animals – feed pets inside – remove wildlife attractants from yards, such as unsecured garbage cans, open containers of food, and compost.
Arlington County Animal Control is also urging residents to remain vigilant and to stay away from any animal that appears sick, lethargic, disoriented, or aggressive and call Animal Control immediately at (703) 931-9241. If you come across a deceased rabies-vector animal (including cats, dogs, foxes, raccoons, and groundhogs) in your yard or a public space, do not handle the animal and Animal Control immediately.
In February an “aggressive” fox that bit a toddler was captured by animal control in the Gulf Branch neighborhood, which is just down Military Road from Arlingwood. That fox was also thought to be rabid.
Earlier this month a rabid fox bit nine people on Capitol Hill before it was captured and euthanized. The fox’s kits were also euthanized.
Arlington’s animal control office is trying to figure out who shot a crow with a blow dart in Fairlington this morning.
Several people in the neighborhood called police and the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA) around 11 a.m. this morning to report the incident. Animal control officers found a crow that had been critically injured by the dart, which was apparently shot from a blow gun.
The crow is now en route to a wildlife center for surgery, but it’s unclear whether it will survive, AWLA said. In a statement, below, the organization said shooting a crow is illegal under the Federal Migratory Bird Act and “will not be tolerated in Arlington County.”
The incident happened about three weeks after commercial property owners in nearby Shirlington started using an artificial fog to try to get a large murder of migratory crows to flock elsewhere. The wintering crows and their prodigious droppings on local sidewalks and vehicles are a long-standing issue in Shirlington, dating back to at least 2017.
More on this morning’s blow dart shooting and its aftermath, from AWLA, is below.
Today at approximately 11am, our officers and 911 Dispatch Center received multiple calls from the public about a crow that had been shot in a Fairlington neighborhood. Our animal control officers immediately responded and found a critically injured crow who had been shot with a blow-gun. Officers brought him back to AWLA for triage where they cut off the barb from the dart and applied basic wound care. One of our officers then began the drive to a wildlife center where the crow will undergo surgery to remove the dart. The officer is currently still on route to the center and unfortunately there is a chance the crow. may not survive the drive. Thankfully, our officers have checked the area and have not found any more injured animals.
“This is why we put so much time and emphasis on teaching tolerance and harmonious coexistence with wildlife. When groups, associations, or organizations teach intolerance for living things, our native wildlife pays the price.” ~ Jennifer Toussaint, Chief of Animal Control.
Crows are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Act. This type of activity is illegal and will not be tolerated in Arlington County. We are asking that anyone who may have seen any related activity in the area over the past 8-12 hours to please call our Animal Control team at (703) 931-9241.
Arlington residents – we need your help finding information regarding a crow that was shot with a blow-gun in Fairlington this morning. pic.twitter.com/tq6f5ofPqM
— AWLArlington, VA (@AWLAArlington) April 19, 2022
Each night this week, an artificial fog will roll through the Village at Shirlington.
Its purpose is to get a murder of crows, which once again wintered in Arlington — doing their business near the Shirlington businesses — to leave and not return when roosting begins again in October.
The descent of crows on Shirlington for the winter is an annual occurrence going back to at least 2017 and leading to a bombardment of droppings on cars, mailboxes, trash cans, sidewalks, patios and tables.
This year, Federal Realty Investment Trust, which owns the retail center at 2700 S. Quincy Street, is trying a new way to deter the persistent perchers and their prolific pooping.
“Federal Realty has partnered with a wildlife management company to implement a Passive Deterrent System to mitigate the nuisance issues and community property damage caused by large flocks of roosting crows,” a spokeswoman for FRIT said. “This system deploys a fog to targeted areas within the tree canopy. This is a humane and non-lethal means to relocate these specific large flocks of crows.”
The fog was first released this past Monday and will be emitted every evening from 7:30-9:30 p.m. until this coming Monday.
More information from FRIT was distributed to residents of a nearby apartment complex and obtained by ARLnow.
The fog “has been a successful approach for several communities, companies and agencies, including the FBI Headquarters, Miami International Airport and the Smithsonian,” FRIT told local residents. “We feel very confident that this process will be an effective strategy to relocate the roosting birds on [the] property and discourage them from returning to roost in the future.”
The fogging has raised concerns for Diva Crows, an organization in Northern Virginia that cares for injured crows and ravens. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington, which handles animal control for the county, meanwhile, is keeping tabs on the situation to see if the fog causes an increase in injured or dead crows.
Sam Sparks, who works for Diva Crows, says this fog is made of a vaporized chemical called methyl anthranilate.
The chemical — which produces a grape odor — irritates the pain receptors associated with birds’ senses of taste and smell, according to one bird repellent company.
“There are two separate concerns,” Sparks says. “One is human exposure to the pesticide, for which there are limited studies on the toxicity to mammals. People have the right to know that they will be exposed to this for the next seven consecutive days that the fog will be deployed.”
Sparks added that this is “baby season” for wild birds, and the deterrent could lead parents to abandon their fledgling offspring, leading to dead baby crows littering Shirlington sidewalks.
It may also not drive them away for good, as crows are adaptable and have to be outsmarted through variable and unpredictable deterrence strategies.
AWLA spokeswoman Chelsea Jones said the animal control agency became aware of the deterrent efforts after receiving several complaints from citizens and business owners about the volume of bird poop.
“We have spoken with the property managers to offer other humane deterrent methods, and have also been in contact with local and state agencies,” Jones said. “This is a legal deterrent method and we have been assured that there is no risk to human or wildlife health.”
Around this time, crows are set to begin their migration, so residents should see a natural, temporary decrease in the local crow population “very soon,” Jones said.
“We have not found any deceased or injured crows thus far, but our Animal Control team continues to monitor the situation,” she said.
Preservation Legislation Shuffled — “After a subcommittee approved a measure being sought to give preservation advocates an additional voice in decisions made at the local level, but simultaneously stripped out some key provisions of the bill, its sponsor made a request. Would the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns, where the measure was being considered, agree to move the bill to the Committee on Courts of Justice, Del. Patrick Hope asked.” [Sun Gazette]
Don’t Drive Drunk on Super Bowl Sunday — “To keep spectators safe on the roads, the Arlington County Police Department is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind football fans everywhere that Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk… in 2019, there were 10,142 people killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes throughout the United States.” [ACPD]
Yogurt Cup Recycling Confusion — Can you recycle small plastic yogurt cups, like those used by Activia and other brands? That’s a solid maybe, according to the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services. Previously, the county has released publications that alternately described yogurt cups as recyclable and not recyclable. [Twitter]
Injured Squirrel Returns to Fairlington — “Last week, our Animal Control team took in a badly injured squirrel who who received life-saving care at [Blue Ridge Wildlife Center]. Today, Officer Ballena released the now-healthy squirrel back into the wild, very close to where he was found. He was very ready to be back in the wild where he belongs! ” [Facebook]
Kudos for Local Crossing Guard — “Shashu Gebre, Crossing Guard at both Alice West Fleet and Long Branch Elementary Schools, has been recognized by the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School (VA SRTS) program as one of Virginia’s Most Outstanding Crossing Guards for the 2021-22 school year. The honor is part of Crossing Guard Appreciation Week, an annual Safe Routes to School celebration recognizing Crossing Guards for the critical role they play in the safe routes to school network.’ [Arlington Public Schools, Twitter]
Changes to Electoral Board — “Weinstein, who like [newly-elected Arlington Electoral Board Chair Kim] Phillip is a Democrat on the body, turned over the reins because, come December, he will depart when Republicans pick up a second seat due to the election of Glenn Youngkin as governor. State law requires electoral boards to be composed of two members of the governor’s party, one from the opposing party. Weinstein will serve as vice chair for the remainder of his term, while Republican Scott McGeary will retain his post as secretary.” [Sun Gazette]
Sunday Snow Likely to Be Light — “Our spell of springlike weather will come to a sudden halt Saturday night as a cold front barges through the region, setting the stage for a possible light snowfall early Sunday morning. Right now this doesn’t look like a big deal for several reasons.” [Capital Weather Gang]
It’s Friday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 62 and wind gusts as high as 30 mph. Sunrise at 7:02 a.m., sunset at 5:43 a.m. Saturday will be partly sunny, with a high near 58. Sunday we’ll see snow and some rain in the morning, then partly sunny with a high near 37. [Weather.gov]
The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is bucking the results of a study suggesting the county has a deer problem.
Arlington County hired a consultant last spring to count the local deer population using drones. The company published a report in September saying that parts of Arlington had populations of 20-39 deer per square mile in certain places, exceeding what’s considered healthy (between 5 and 15 deer per square mile).
In a statement released Monday, AWLA, which oversees animal control for Arlington County, disputed the idea that the local deer population reaches unhealthy levels and urged the county to adopt a “practical, humane, and sustainable deer management plan” that doesn’t place too much focus on the numbers.
“From our extensive work in humane wildlife management, we know from experience that the issue is not the number of deer but rather the conflicts we have with them,” AWLA President & CEO Samuel Wolbert and Chief of Animal Control Jennifer Toussaint said.
The joint statement comes as county staff prepare to incorporate this data into a broader look at what steps Arlington needs to take, if any, to maintain a healthy white-tailed deer population.
Wolbert and Toussaint say there’s “scientific basis” for the claim that 5-15 deer per square mile is healthy, arguing no single count of deer qualifies as over-population.
“The fact is, determining a ‘healthy carrying capacity’ is a political judgement that is not rooted in biology: some communities, and even areas within a community, will be able to sustain different numbers of deer based on multiple factors, like type and quality of food and cover,” they said. “There is no one ‘magic’ number that any community should have. Saying Arlington County, with 13 deer per square mile, has too many deer is a political determination and not based on the environment in which the deer are located.”
AWLA leaders say complaints about deer may have precipitated this survey, but of all the calls and online reports their animal control division receives related to wildlife, relatively few involve deer.
Since November 2020, when it launched an online reporting system, AWLA has received over 650 wildlife concerns, and of those, 17 (3%) related to deer. Meanwhile, in 2021, 131 calls of the 2,733 calls for service related to wildlife (or 5%) were deer-related — and the most common concern was about the health of orphaned fawns.
“If there truly were ‘too many deer’ we, as the County’s wildlife experts, would have more deer-related complaints or issues arising from deer — which is simply not the case,” Wolbert and Toussaint said.
As for the argument that deer contribute to the destruction of the forest understory, cited in the report, AWLA leaders argue that deers are unfairly blamed for the impacts of other factors.
“It’s easy to blame deer for any forestry growth woes, when the reality is that forests are affected by many factors: insect damage, disease, pollutants (like harsh fertilizers), invasive species, increased foot traffic, climate and weather extremes, over-development… and deer,” Wolbert and Toussaint write.
In response, Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation said the survey was just the first step in determining whether Arlington needs to more actively manage deer. Next, the county will hire a professional wildlife consultant to interpret this data and gather additional information to determine if and how deer are impacting the natural landscape, said DPR spokeswoman Susan Kalish.
All this information will guide a public engagement process that will culminate with a presentation to the County Board this summer.
“Deer are necessary aspects of wildlife with important ecological functions when in balance with the surrounding habitat,” Kalish said. “Arlington takes its role as a steward of wildlife and its natural lands seriously.”
Arlington County recently funded a deer survey to establish a count of our white-tailed deer population. The results of this survey suggest that Arlington County has a “deer problem”…but we disagree. Read our President & Chief ACO's statement here: https://t.co/eFH9tuSHOc pic.twitter.com/0F4W3i7SL1
— AWLArlington, VA (@AWLAArlington) February 7, 2022
(Updated at 10:35 p.m.) A fox terrorized a northern Arlington neighborhood today, prompting a warning about rabies from local authorities.
Police and Arlington animal control started getting calls about an aggressive fox in the Gulf Branch neighborhood this morning. It culminated in a police dispatch for a report of a three-year-old boy being bitten by the fox inside a garage on 33rd Street N., around 2:15 p.m.
The person who reported the incident chased the fox away. There’s no word on how the boy is doing now.
The fox also “had potential contact” with three pets, Arlington County says.
On Wednesday evening, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington told ARLnow that a fox had been captured.
“A fox was captured and removed at approximately 3:25pm today by 3 animal control officers, Sgt. Ballena, Deputy Murray, and Deputy Elpers,” said Jen Toussaint, AWLA’s Chief of Animal Control.
The county’s press release about the fox, from before it was captured, is below.
On Wednesday, Feb. 2, beginning at 10:45 a.m., Arlington County Animal Control and the Arlington County Police Department began received complaints regarding a fox aggressively approaching people and dogs around the 3500 block of N Utah Street and [4500 block] of 33rd Street North. The incidents are believed to involve the same fox.
The fox had potential contact with three domestic pets and bit one human unprovoked causing injury. The fox in question was exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with rabies. The suspect aggressive fox has not been located or captured at this time.
Rabies is a disease that people and animals can catch from the bite or scratch of infected animals. It is fatal if medical care is not given promptly.
Arlington County Animal Control and the Arlington County Department of Human Services are urging anyone who may have been bitten or scratched by any wild animal, including a fox, to reach out immediately. If you, your children, or your pets had any potential contact with this animal, please call Arlington County Animal Control promptly at 703-931-9241.
Residents are encouraged to:
- Ensure pets are up to date on their rabies and distemper vaccines
- Keep dogs on a leash at all times and keep cats inside
- Do not approach or feed any wild animals
- Feed pets inside
- Remove wildlife attractants from yards, such as unsecured garbage cans, open containers of food and compost
What to look out for
Arlington County Animal Control is also urging residents to remain vigilant, and if they see a fox that appears sick, lethargic, disoriented, or aggressive to stay away from the animal and call Animal Control immediately: 703-931-9241.
The County asks that pets and children are not permitted outside unsupervised at this time.
Do not attempt to haze or make loud sounds at this animal. Back away slowly while facing the animal at all times.
If you come across a deceased rabies vector animal (including cats, dogs, foxes, raccoons, and groundhogs) in your yard or a public space, contact Animal Control promptly and do not handle the animal.
A black coyote was sighted near Lubber Run this week, and she may have pups.
While sighting the shy canine is relatively rare, the dark fur of the Arlington Forest coyote is a touch more uncommon. Its coloration is what helped the Animal Welfare League of Arlington identify she was not new to the area.
One Arlington Forest resident called the AWLA, which runs the county’s animal control operation, to report a sighting on Monday, and said the coyote had pups in tow, although officers couldn’t locate her or the young to confirm. On Tuesday, an ARLnow reader Amy Cocuzza caught her on camera in the neighborhood.
Cocuzza reached out to a USDA wildlife specialist, who said the Arlington Forest coyote’s dark fur is uncommon but not rare. Coyotes in the East have tremendous color variation.
AWLA’s Chief of Animal Control Jennifer Toussaint tells ARLnow the Arlington Forest coyote is not the only dark coyote she’s seen in Arlington. She saw her first on Route 110 near Memorial in 2013. She compared the uncommon coloration — known as melanism — to that of the more prevalent black squirrel.
She said the coyote Cocuzza saw is likely female and they became aware of her in Arlington Forest last year.
Previous coyote sightings reported by ARLnow were all of a grey or lighter brown colored canine. A coyote was spotted multiple times wandering around in the Fairlington area in 2020. Coyotes have also been seen moseying along Washington Blvd, and in Potomac Overlook Regional Park, Lubber Run and Cherrydale. In 2014, a coyote was struck by a car near Arlington National Cemetery.
Toussaint called coyotes “highly adaptable opportunists” and said they thrive living near people in suburban and urban settings like Arlington where scavenging for food is easy — taking advantage of pet food or trash left out. But she said the presence of a coyote, which can be active both day and night, isn’t cause for alarm. In fact, there are some benefits like free rodent control.
“Urban coyotes are born right in our neighborhoods and are generally familiar with us, our pets, and our routines,” she said. “Occasionally, a curious coyote may need to be reminded to be wary of people, especially if someone has been feeding them, which is not advised or legal.”
Toussaint recommends “hazing” techniques, such as clapping your hands, raising your voice, blowing a whistle or shaking an aluminum can with pennies inside. She said, while coyotes don’t pose a risk to humans, they should never be handled and pets should be monitored closely and kept current on rabies vaccines.
“We don’t see many interactions or conflicts between coyotes and people or pets, but when we do, it’s usually because someone was startled, so it’s a good idea to practice hazing techniques before allowing a pet in your yard, as well,” she said.
Arlington’s Natural Resource Manager Alonso Abugattas writes that “the Eastern coyote is bigger than those in the West, about the size of a border collie or even German Shepherd, often between 45 to 55lbs” with males usually larger than the females.
The USDA specialist suggested to Cocuzza that the black coyote may be wandering out because it’s their mating season, and “they do tend to be more bold and wander out at this time.”
Hat tip to Amy Cocuzza