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.
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
Oh deer: Arlington officially has a white-tailed problem.
A study has found that some parts of Arlington have deer populations three to five times greater than what’s considered healthy.
Earlier this year, drones equipped with infrared technology — and permission from federal agencies — flew over Arlington to count the number of deer in the county. The result represents the first ever accurate measure of Arlington’s deer population, according to the county.
From April 8-12, drones registered and the independent firm Steward Green confirmed the presence of 290 deer in Arlington, according to the report. The firm recommends more “management” where populations are the highest and greater monitoring everywhere else.
Following the report’s release in the fall, the county intends to hire a consultant this winter who will determine what that management strategy should be.
While white-tailed deer can contribute to a region’s natural habitat, elevated populations impede the growth of young trees and hurt local flora and fauna, according to the report. They also pose problems for humans, such as vehicle collisions, which have trended down in Arlington since 2020 but are still common in Virginia.
“High deer densities… can lead to intolerable levels of damage to native ecosystems, crops, commercial and residential landscaping, as well as increased safety concerns from deer-vehicle collisions and tick-borne illnesses,” said the report, released this fall.
Deer populations countywide exceed what the land can support, the report says.
“All the areas surveyed in this study have a deer density that is likely beyond the threshold of carrying capacity, have intensified invasive flora, have depleted habitat for (tick eating) ground nesting birds (oven birds, etc.)… and have possible starvation/disease for the deer,” the report said.
Wildlife biologists, ecologists and environmental professionals consider five to 15 deer per square mile to be “healthy,” according to the report. The consultants recommend suburban areas aim for 10 deer per square mile. Arlington has a total of 26 square miles, including both urban and wooded areas.
North Arlington, neighborhoods along the western edge of the county and neighborhoods southwest of Arlington National Cemetery had the highest deer populations, according to the study.
In the following sections, which correspond with the map below, densities ranged between 20 and 39 deer per square mile.
Section G, which includes Army Navy Country Club and is bounded by Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Blvd and I-395, had 20 deer per square mile.
Section D, which includes the neighborhoods near Bluemont Park and Upton Hill Regional Park and is bounded by the western county edge, I-66 and Arlington Blvd, had 28 deer per square mile.
Section A, which includes the neighborhoods of North Arlington near Marymount University, Potomac Overlook Regional Park and Donaldson Run and is bounded by Langston Blvd and Old Dominion Drive, had 33 deer per square mile.
Section F, which includes neighborhoods north of Columbia Pike near the county’s western border, had 39 deer per square mile.
The consultant says the 290 figure is likely conservative because of the “challenges of daytime collection,” and recommended future counts obtain clearance to fly at night. The drone had to dodge low-flying helicopters and airplanes and had unclear readings due to the presence of competing heat sources.
It’s that time of the year.
Deer are answering mother nature’s siren call and venturing out in search of a mate, which can have disastrous results for both the deer and local drivers.
Since Tuesday, Arlington County police have received at least three calls for injured deer on the side of the road, at least one of which was struck by a vehicle.
Collisions between deer and cars in Arlington are actually somewhat rare — “since January 1, 2018, four collisions reports have been taken for incidents causally-attributed to deer,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow — but this time of the fall is when the risk is highest.
Arlington County naturalist Alonso Abugattas said it comes down to normally skittish deer becoming uninhibited as their drive to perpetuate the species heightens.
“We are at the start of the rut for deer. This means bucks are chasing does all over the place in order to mate,” Abugattas said. “As this is the one thing they have in their minds, they often ignore cars and this is when the most car deer collisions happen.”
Jennifer Toussaint, the Chief of Animal Control for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, said in an email that there’s a higher risk of deer-related crashes along roads that abut wooded areas.
“Rutting season for deer is the period of time in the year when they mate. During this time their activity and movement increases and as a result, we see an increase in roadway crossings for deer,” Toussaint wrote. “We see most of the small number of motor vehicle deer collisions that occur yearly during this time.”
“Here in Arlington County those incidents are most likely to occur on the highways and roadways that abut or run alongside our large or conjoining green spaces; such as Arlington Boulevard near Lubber Run, Military Road, GW Parkway, and Spout Run Parkway,” she continued. “It’s important for drivers to be extra vigilant from the second week of October through the first week of December — when their movement activity is at its peak.”
Toussaint offered the following safety tips for drivers.
Ways to Increase Safety During This Time:
- Be vigilant, especially at dawn and dusk when deer activity is at its highest. Watch from side to side as you drive, especially in areas of low visibility or where shrubs or grasses are near the road.
- Watch for group behavior. Deer often travel in groups. If one deer crosses the road, slow down and watch for more to follow. Females travel together in winter, and fawns follow their mothers in spring and summer. Male deer travel alone during rutting season.
- Use your high beams at night when possible and turn down interior lights and put away distractions (such as cell phones) to see farther ahead. Slow down and watch for the eye-shine of deer near road edges.
- Use your high beams at night when possible and turn down interior lights and put away distractions (such as cell phones) to see farther ahead. Slow down and watch for the eye-shine of deer near road edges.
She also noted that instances of injured deer have been decreasing, particularly during the pandemic, despite the sudden spike this week.
“Overall deer intake to animal control actually went down an additional 38% in 2020,” Toussaint wrote. “To date this year in 2021, we are down an additional 18% on intake to the even low intake of last year. Arlington County Animal Control works with Arlington County’s DES team to ensure that if there are any collisions in certain areas that warning signs are put up for motor vehicle drivers. Our overall calls regarding deer concerns has also steadily decreased yearly over the past 4 years as well.”
Arlington House’s Hidden History — “On Tuesday, the historic mansion in Arlington National Cemetery reopens after a renovation that has recaptured the glory of the house, along with clues to the secret lives of the enslaved Black people who were the main occupants of the land where it stood.” [Washington Post, NBC 4]
Developer Looks to Expand in Arlington — “One of JBG Smith Properties’ top executives handling the company’s massive Arlington portfolio — and its relationship with Amazon.com Inc. — has jumped to another developer. Longtime JBG Smith Executive Vice President Andy Van Horn made the move to Dweck Properties on May 17… he aims to transform Dweck from a small family company with a focus on apartment management to an active developer of properties in National Landing,” [Washington Business Journal]
Smash and Grab Theft in Pentagon City — “At approximately 6:57 p.m. on June 5, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that the two male suspects entered the business, smashed the glass display cases containing merchandise, stole several items and fled the scene in a waiting vehicle.” [ACPD]
County Board Resumes In-Person Meetings — “After more than a year participating in meetings largely from their own rec rooms or similar spaces, Arlington County Board members will be back on the dais later this month. ‘The board is looking forward to holding board meetings and interacting with the community in-person safely and responsibly,’ County Board Chairman Matt de Ferranti told the Sun Gazette.” [Sun Gazette]
Baby Deer Found Near Fire Station — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “This tiny (and we really mean tiny) fawn was found in the parking lot of a local fire station. Due to his location and condition, our officers knew they had to step in and help this little guy. He is now safe and sound with a local wildlife rehabber!” [Twitter]
GOP Questions Dem Caucus — “A key leader of the Arlington County Republican Committee last week mused publicly whether the powers-that-be of the Arlington County Democratic Committee put their thumbs on the scale to help a School Board candidate across the finish line. The Democratic leadership, in response, said the GOP attack line is based on a faulty supposition.” [Sun Gazette]
Masks Still Required Inside APS Buildings — “Fully vaccinated individuals may now remove their masks when outside on school grounds and are exempt from quarantine if identified in contact tracing. Masks are required for everyone while inside our facilities and schools. These measures are subject to change as we anticipate additional revised guidance for schools prior to the start of the new school year.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Man Clinging to Side of Overpass Stops Traffic — “I-66 and a portion of N. Glebe Road [are] currently blocked due to a man who was hanging off the side of the overpass. The man is now in police custody and the roads are reopening.” [Twitter]
A fleet of drones will take to the skies above Arlington next month in an effort to figure out how many deer call the county home.
The drones will be piloted by a firm contracted by the county and overseen by Arlington County police. Normally, drone flights this close to D.C. are strictly prohibited, but Arlington is being granted special permission by the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal agencies. The county is also coordinating with Reagan National Airport.
The drones will look for heat signatures in the woods in order to develop a count of Arlington’s white-tailed deer. This will be “the first accurate measure of Arlington’s deer population,” the county says, noting that “only anecdotal data… currently exists.”
The dones will be launched just before sunrise on Monday, April 5 and the count will continue until just after sunset, for up to two weeks.
The county is careful to note that the drones will only be looking for deer and will “not identify people.”
More from a county press release, below.
Arlington County has hired a contractor to perform a drone survey of heat signatures of the County’s white-tailed deer population. The survey information will assist with the development of the County’s Forestry and Natural Resources Plan. The survey will only collect heat signatures of deer and does not identify people.
“We’ve all seen deer in the County at one time or another,” said Alonso Abugattas, the County’s Natural Resource Manager. “We’d like more than just anecdotal evidence. We want to clearly see how many and where they are so we can mindfully steward our natural resources.”
Thermal and infrared imagery has helped improve counting by relating animals’ unique heat and visibility signatures to precisely count only deer. In one study, it was shown that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, can be about 43-96% more accurate than ground or human-made observations in counting wildlife. Montgomery County, MD, has conducted UAV deer surveys in locations throughout Montgomery to determine carrying capacity.
The drones will be flying over Arlington beginning a half hour before sunrise April 5 (weather permitting) each day until 30 minutes after sunset, until the survey is completed. They will not be flying at night. The survey could take up to two weeks but is weather dependent. Drones are not permitted to fly over Arlington except for very limited instances. Arlington has coordinated the project with US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Aviation Association (FAA), Transportation Security Administration, Ronald Reagan National Airport, and Arlington County Police Department (ACPD). In accordance with FAA guidelines, ACPD will be onsite monitoring the drone flights.
This will be the first accurate measure of Arlington’s deer population. Only anecdotal data on Arlington currently exists. By 1900, white-tailed deer population had been destroyed in most of Virginia. Through the 1940’s to 1980’s with restocking efforts, laws protecting deer and favorable habitat, deer have rebounded at an exponential rate in Virginia.
Accurate data will determine Arlington’s deer carrying capacity. Deer are important and a necessary aspect of wildlife with important wildlife functions when in balance with the surrounding habitat. Per the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, the carrying capacity for deer can vary widely between and within communities. Data from the surveys will help determine Arlington’s carrying capacity.
Photo via Arlington County
An especially bold deer with unique markings was seen going for a morning run in Arlington’s Williamsburg neighborhood today.
A reader sent the above video, taken at the intersection of Williamsburg Blvd and N. Ohio Street, wondering what the heck is going on with the “cow deer” that was galavanting around the neighborhood.
We steered that question to Alonso Abugattas, Arlington’s Natural Resources Manager — the expert in all things wildlife in the county.
“This is a piebald buck,” Abugattas explained. “As it’s the rut season, this buck is looking for does in estrus, and so is taking a lot of chances he would not normally do, often resulting in this being when the most road kills happen and car accidents involving deer happen.”
In other words, the deer has a recessive genetic trait that causes the cow-like spots, and was literally going buck wild looking for a mate.
That may answer the videographer’s question, but the takeaway for drivers is to remain alert on the roads this time of year, even in Arlington. You never know when a hyped-up deer will cross your path.
Video courtesy Joe Blackburn
Nonprofit Won’t Return to Arlington Office — “The American Diabetes Association isn’t planning a return to the Crystal City headquarters it left Alexandria for a few years back, not even when a Covid-19 vaccine is readily available and it’s safe to go back to the office again. The nonprofit is seeking to sublease all of its space at 2451 Crystal Drive, about 80,000 square feet.” [Washington Business Journal]
Voter Registration Open Until Midnight — “A judge on Wednesday granted a request from civil rights groups to extend Virginia’s voter registration deadline until Oct. 15 after the state’s online system crashed on the final day of the registration period, according to Virginia’s attorney general.” [Axios, Press Release]
Oh, Deer — The regional deer population has been increasing during the pandemic, which is making driving more dangerous this fall as deer potentially become “too comfortable” around roads. [NBC 4]
Park Rangers Patrolling for Rogue Mountain Bikers — “Park rangers have been patrolling the parks to keep the mountain bike riders off the natural trails. ‘We put up barriers in places where we can. We put up signs … in key areas we put up some things to block their access … but we’re focusing on education,’ Abugattas said.” [WTOP]
Voting Lines Should Move Quickly — “Arlington election officials are advising the public not to be dissuaded if lines for voting, either in advance of Nov. 3 or on Election Day itself, seem long. ‘You can expect to see a pretty long line, but that’s because of the spacing we’re trying to put between voters,’ county director of elections Gretchen Reinemeyer said.” Also, the Reinemeyer said the county is already fully staffed with volunteer poll workers. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Certification for Sheriff’s Office — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office has met all applicable Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards following an audit that was conducted earlier this year.” [Arlington County]
Pentagon City Planning Meeting Tonight — “Participate in a virtual workshop about Arlington’s community planning process for Pentagon City! The first workshop will include small group discussions about the community’s vision for the Pentagon City Area.” [Arlington County]
Crystal City Water Park to Get Big Upgrade — “JBG Smith Properties is pitching a major makeover for a small park at the heart of its Crystal City holdings, envisioning some new retail and even a bar atop a water feature. The developer filed plans with Arlington County earlier this month requesting an additional 6,100 square feet of density for the 1.6-acre park, located across the street from JBG Smith’s massive ‘Central District’ project at 1770 Crystal Drive.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]
Vote By Mail Facts — “The first round of vote-by-mail ballots have been sent to people who requested them, but it’s not too late to request yours. Ballot applications must be received by 5 p.m. on Oct. 23. To help you understand how voting by mail works — and feel confident in submitting your ballot — we’ve broken down the facts you need to know.” [Arlington County]
Deer Rescued from Country Club Fence — “On Tuesday night, a curious fawn tried to get through a metal fence in the Washington Golf and Country Club. Unfortunately her adventurous plan backfired, and the fawn ended up stuck and stranded. The country club called animal control, which is under the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, and that’s when Officer Shannon Rose sprung to action.” [Washingtonian]
Weekday Afternoon Robbery in Ballston — “At approximately 4:21 p.m. on September 23, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business, approached the front counter, and passed the employee a note demanding money and threatening them if they didn’t comply. The victim complied, and the suspect stole an undisclosed amount of cash, then fled on foot prior to police arrival.” [Arlington County]
National Landing Food Program Extended — “Thanks to generous support from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Amazon, JBG SMITH, Equity Residential and individual Arlington residents, the National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) announced today that its Farm-to-Families food assistance program will be extended through the fall.” [Press Release]
Addiction Recovery Org Rebrands — “The name will change but the mission will remain the same – working to help those struggling with addiction turn their lives around. Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic announced Sept. 16 that it would change its name to National Capital Treatment and Recovery, following its split last year from the national Phoenix House organization.” [InsideNova]
Fox News in Arlington — “An apparently news-starved fox has taken matters into its own paws and has been spotted stealing copies of the Post from the porches of unsuspecting Arlington residents.” [Washingtonian]
In-Person Census Visits Starting — “To achieve a complete count, Census Takers will begin conducting home interviews. Starting the week of July 20 — nearly three weeks before the nationwide August 11 launch date — Census Takers will be visiting homes in Arlington, including an estimated 27,000 households that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census.” [Arlington County]
Longtime Local Mail Carrier Dies — Jesus and Luz Collazos “immigrated to the United States and settled in Arlington, Va., where he spent 25 years as a postal worker. They raised a family in a home he bought after admiring it on his delivery route. On June 6, about a year into his retirement, he died of covid-19 at 67.” [Washington Post]
Should Route 29 Become John Lewis Highway? — One idea for the renaming of Lee Highway: name it after Rep. John Lewis, who died Friday. The civil rights leader grew up in Troy, Alabama, for which U.S. Route 29 is the main street. The highway also runs through his congressional district in Georgia. [Twitter]
Deer Rescued from Church Basement — “A huge thank you to Animal Services officers Schindler and D’Eramo from Humane Rescue Alliance for jumping in late last night to help our AWLA officers Ballena and Rose rescue a young deer.” [Facebook]
Synetic’s ‘The Decameron’ Project — “The Decameron, a series of 14th century Italian novellas about surviving the Black Death, is enjoying a surprising renaissance during the current coronavirus crisis… Now, Crystal City’s Synetic Theater, a physical theater troupe that specializes in literary adaptations, usually relying on music and movement to tell stories rather than spoken dialogue, has created a Decameron of its own.” [Washington City Paper]
Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman
A woman has been injured after striking a deer along Spout Run Parkway tonight.
The crash happened between the GW Parkway and Lorcom Lane, during a foggy evening commute.
Initial reports suggest the woman was bleeding profusely from the face after the force of the impact shattered the car’s windshield. The deer was found dead nearby.
Traffic maps show increasingly heavy westbound traffic on Spout Run, starting shortly after the exit from the GW Parkway.
Map via Google Maps
Storms Expected Today — “Strong to locally severe thunderstorms are in the forecast Tuesday afternoon and evening, and the potential exists for this to be a significant severe weather event.” [Capital Weather Gang]
ACPD: Expect Police at Fair — “As in years past, the [Arlington County Fair] will have dedicated police staffing and resources and fairgoers can expect to see a visible police presence… There are no known threats to Arlington County, however, the public is encouraged to remain aware of your surroundings at all times.” [Arlington County]
Local Volunteer Firefighting Legacy — “Tucked inside the Clarendon fire station on N. 10th St. is a special closed-off room. By long-standing arrangement with the county, it is dedicated to honoring the station’s decades of reliance on volunteer firefighters. Today’s professionally staffed Fire Station 4 deploys ‘no active volunteers, but retains a volunteer presence.'” [Falls Church News-Press]
Hotel Near HQ2 Sells For Big Bucks — “Host Hotels & Resorts sold the Residence Inn Arlington Pentagon City, a 299-room high-rise property at 550 Army Navy Drive, for $99.1M in a deal that closed July 1, according to Arlington County property records.” [Bisnow]
Deer Rescued from Fence — “Last week, Officer Solano and several neighbors were able to safely untangle this juvenile deer from a soccer net in a resident’s backyard. The deer immediately ran away, uninjured, back into the woods nearby.” [Twitter]
Man Brings Loaded Shotgun to Pentagon — “A Kentucky man taken into custody at the Pentagon last week had a shotgun, ammunition and a machete in his pickup truck, according to court documents… While speaking to the officers, [the man] made ‘incoherent statements about being in the area for ‘liberty business.”” [Fox 5]