Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Rep. Beyer Talks Impeachment — “Phones have been ringing all day with constituents calling to tell me they support impeachment, particularly following the President’s corrupt dealings with Ukraine. They are right.” [Twitter]

Westover School Project Moving Forward — “There will be no stay of execution for any of the trees on the chopping block as the Arlington school system moves forward with a new elementary school in Westover. School Board members on Sept. 19 voted to approve a construction contract for the $55 million project, which will drop a 725-student facility adjacent to Westover Library on North McKinley Road near Washington Boulevard.” [InsideNova]

It’s Rabies Awareness Week — “September 23-29 is Rabies Awareness Week in Virginia. Follow these five tips to help ensure you and your family are protected. 1. Get Pets Vaccinated… 2. Stay Away from Wild Animals… 3. Keep Pets Leashed… 4. Seek Medical Care Immediately if Bitten… 5. Report Animal Bites and Strange Behavior.” [Arlington County]

ARLnow Reporters Splashed — “A large pleasure boat flying a Trump flag and operating at what appeared to be higher-than-permitted speed came so close to a water taxi bound for the Wharf Sunday that many passengers were soaked when the water taxi crossed its wake. A representative for the Potomac RiverBoat Company was not able to confirm the incident over the phone but, this is Washington, and there were at least two reporters aboard the water taxi.” [Washingtonian]

‘Candi-dating’ Forum Planned — “The League of Women Voters of Arlington is partnering with a number of other organizations on a “candi-dating” forum. The event, to be held on Sunday, Oct. 6 at Walter Reed Community Center, is akin to speed-dating: Attendees will have 10 minutes to meet with candidates running for office from Arlington and Alexandria.” [InsideNova]

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The Ballston Beaver Pond is about to get a makeover, but a little later than originally anticipated.

In January, county officials re-initiated a public discussion on a redesign for the pond. The pond was originally built in 1980 to collect stormwater runoff from I-66. To the surprise of county officials, beavers moved in and made the pond their home. The beavers dammed up the drainage system and were joined in the habitat by muskrat, geese, ducks, heron, egrets, redwing blackbirds, fish, turtles.

The stormwater goals have since been further hampered by invasive vegetation and litter. But after some initial work 5-6 years ago, Arlington now hopes to transform the pond to something beyond its initial concept: it wants to turn the pond into a stormwater management facility and pedestrian-accessible wetlands.

“This pond receives runoff from more than 300 acres of urban and suburban land and represents the most feasible opportunity within Arlington for a larger regional stormwater management facility,” the county said on the project page. “Retrofitting the pond so it provides more water quality treatment helps the County comply with the municipal separate storm sewer system permit and contributes to restoring the Chesapeake Bay.”

Plans for the project include a boardwalk with informative signs and benches along the eastern edge of the pond.

Initial projections for the project had construction starting sometime this winter, but stormwater outreach specialist Lily Whitesell said the project is currently still in the permitting phase with VDOT. Once construction of the project starts, it’s projected to last 9-12 months.

“Once [permitting] is completed, it will go to procurement, likely in early 2020,” Whitesell said. “Then we will likely go to construction in summer or fall 2020.”

The fundamental design of the project remains the same, and Whitesell said the intense storm in July showed the need for expanded capacity at the pond.

There will be some closures during the project. Whitesell said the trail on the east side of the pond will be closed during construction, but the trail adjacent to Fairfax Drive that leads to the Custis Trail will remain open.

When the trail reopens, the wetland will be designed to revive the native wetland plants and habitat, like turtles.

“We anticipate that turtles, a wide variety of migratory birds, pollinators, amphibians, and other valuable wildlife will use the pond,” Whitesell said. “We’ve heard from local birders and other wildlife enthusiasts that they are excited about the new habitat benefits of the project.”

But despite the namesake, the county are not planning to bring beavers back to the park, and in fact will actively do all they can to keep them away.

“Unfortunately, beavers would reshape the land and potentially compromise the water quality and habitat goals of the project and pond safety,” Whitesell said. “Beaver baffles will be installed to discourage beavers from the pond area.”

Photos 2, 3 courtesy Arlington County

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During the floods that devastated Arlington two weeks ago, it wasn’t just people’s pets that needed rescuing.

Wild animals — especially young ones — were at an especially high risk of being orphaned by the storm because of the time of the year, according to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, and staff say they rescued dozens of critters.

“After the flood water receded the wildlife calls started to come in,” said Animal Control Chief Jennifer Toussaint.

“From deer who were in odd areas appearing disoriented to dozens of orphaned baby bird and squirrel calls,” she said. “It look about 3 days for our calls for wildlife to go back to the standard volumes we see this time of year. Unfortunately given the time of year many small unweaned animals were thrown from their nests and orphaned.”

Among the orphans were baby squirrel siblings, and a juvenile Cooper’s hawk. AWLA was able to care for them overnight, staff told ARLnow, and transfer them to a wildlife rescue organization that will hopefully be able to rehabilitate them for the wild.

“When we get in wildlife it is either re-released back into other wild, or we do triage care until we get a wildlife rehabilitator,” said AWLA spokeswoman Chelsea Jones. Due to the call volume that Monday it was “all hands on deck” at AWLA, she said..

Toussaint was dispatched to help the Westover community, which was especially hit hard by the flooding, checking homes with pets whose owners were away at work during the morning storm.

“I was present when the fire department aided a woman and her cat out of the flood waters in her basement and up to safety,” she said. “We brought that cat in here to AWLA for safekeeping, a free program we have for boarding animals in an emergency situation.”

She said residents were taking in each other’s pets to keep them safe, and directing first responders to check their elderly neighbors. Jones confirmed that the cat was able to return to its owner after five days of care at AWLA, and all wild animals rescued have been either re-released or transferred to a wildlife rehabilitation organization.

Toussaint said the kindness people showed each other “highlighted the true strength of community we have here in Arlington.”

“I stood in the home of a member of the public who had just lost everything — an inch of water on the floor of the first level, darkness filling the house as the power was cut for safety,” she said. “I listened to one of the captains from our fire department say, ‘I will not leave until I know you have a safe place to go and a plan.'”

Photos (1 and 2) courtesy Jennifer Toussaint, (3 and 4) courtesy Nicole Bender, (5 and 6) courtesy Brandon Jones

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Morning Notes

VC Firms Eyeing Arlington, D.C. — “Two venture capital firms that have invested mostly in tech companies in the middle of the country are keeping their eye on Greater Washington in the wake of Amazon.com Inc.’s decision to place its second headquarters in Arlington.” [Washington Business Journal]

Owl Rescued from Middle School — “Last week, [the Animal Welfare League of Arlington] got a call from a local middle school that an owl was trapped in their boiler room. Officers Toussaint and White responded and were able to safely remove the owl.” [Facebook, Twitter]

Five-Vehicle Crash on Route 50 — At least two people were reported injured after a five-vehicle crash on Route 50 yesterday afternoon. [Twitter]

Wild Press Conference Near Rosslyn — “Pro-Trump operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman… hosted a bizarre press conference in the driveway of Burkman’s Arlington, Va. home, while being frequently interrupted by noise from nearby garbage trucks.” [The Daily Beast]

Arlington Org Office Attacked in Kabul — The Kabul, Afghanistan office of Crystal City-based non-governmental organization Counterpart International was attacked yesterday. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the deadly terror attack. [CNN, Counterpart International]

Nearby: Silver Diner Coming to Alexandria — Silver Diner is seeking permission to open a new location at 4610 King Street, in a new development in the City of Alexandria, near Arlington’s Claremont and Fairlington neighborhoods. [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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With many animals preparing to rear their young, the season of wildlife encounters is upon us, says the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

Animal Control Chief Jennifer Toussaint told ARLnow that service calls to her department typically increase this time of year. She shared some tips on making sure the encounters are safe for both humans and animals.

The Arlington County Board banned residents from owning “wild and exotic” animals as pets in 2017, but residents have documented many wild encounters over the years: including feral cat colonies, a coyote on the move, a construction-site turkeybooming bunny populations, and trash truck raccoon as well as school drain raccoon.

Overall, Toussaint said animal control officers receive about 3,500 calls for service annually, and about half those calls involve wild animals. “That tells me that that is a huge need the community has for my department,” she said.

One way she’s trying to meet that need is with public education events, like the one she held on Tuesday. It’s an opportunity to talk about animal-proofing one’s homes, and about dispelling old myths about normal animal behavior.

“I think most of the calls we get are genuine concern. They find a bird on the ground and it looks like a baby. They don’t know that most songbirds fledge from the nest and spend a few days on the ground building up the shoulder strength to fly,” she said, joking, “Cartoons lied to us as children!”

And the rule about not touching baby animals lest their scent changes and their parents abandon them? Also a myth, she says.

As for homeowners who prefer enjoying wildlife from a distance?

“A lot of it is pretty simple,” Toussaint says, “one of the main things is ensuring your home is impenetrable.”

Her tips include capping chimneys, and inspecting attics, eaves, roof siding, and trim regularly for any signs of wildlife.

Ensuring trash barrels stay closed with bungee cords, and clearing debris from yards also helps discourage animals from making homes or meals at people’s homes.

One thing she doesn’t recommend?

“We’re all kind of on top of each other here in Arlington, so I don’t promote people putting chemicals out,” said Toussaint. There are a number of safe, alternative remedies people can use for the problems they most often call about, she said.

For more questions, Toussaint recommends Arlingtonians check out the Humane Society’s species-specific website, or call animal control any time at 703-931-9241. Some animal-specific advice is below, after the jump.

Read More

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Morning Notes

Rare, Tropical Dragonfly Spotted in Arlington — “There was quite the discovery at this year’s Bioblitz in Glencarlyn Park. After a photo posted on the crowd-sourcing tracker, iNaturalist, started to spark a lot of interest… the consensus was that what had been photographed was a Great Pondhawk Dragonfly (Erythemis vesiculosa).” [Arlington County]

Frost Fest Rescheduled — Frost Fest at Pentagon Row, originally planned for Saturday, has been rescheduled due to expected rainy weather. It will now take place this Sunday from 4-7 p.m. [Twitter]

County to Open Garages During Snowstorms — “If a big winter storm – or two, or three – hits the region in coming months, Arlington residents will be able to leave their cars safe and sound in county-owned garages for the duration. It’s all part of an effort to keep residential streets as free of vehicles as possible so snow-plow operators can do their job.” [InsideNova]

Crafthouse Going Big — Beer-centric local restaurant chain Crafthouse, which has a location in Ballston, has inked a $250 million deal to franchise nationally. [Reston Now]

Portion of W&OD Trail to Get Separate Lanes — “A major 1.2-mile stretch of the W&OD Trail bike path that traverses the City of Falls Church… will soon be enhanced with the benefit of $3.2 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and turned into a dual path — one for bikes and the other for pedestrians.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Amazon News Roundup — Virginia economic development officials say they have “accounted for a host of risks that might arise related to Amazon, from a shift in direction for the company to antitrust litigation.” The Arlington Civic Federation “will host a discussion of the proposed Amazon economic-incentive package at its monthly meeting, to be held on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. at Virginia Hospital Center.” Arlington County’s building and permitting staff “won’t be doing anything out of the ordinary to accommodate Amazon, such as fast-tracking, a common incentive offered to big economic development prizes.” And, in a new report on the oft-reported subject, “Amazon’s Northern Virginia headquarters could exacerbate existing economic disparities.”

Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi

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Though talk of wild turkey in Rosslyn may lead one to think of bros in hotel bars swigging high-proof bourbon, today it was the real, live thing.

A wild turkey was found waddling around a construction site in Rosslyn, leading to a response from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

An animal control officer was able to catch the male turkey, which was said to be “scared and very stressed.” A video posted on Facebook, below, captures the scene as the turkey was placed in a kennel before being brought back to AWLA’s shelter in Shirlington and then being released into the wild.

More from AWLA:

We checked him out, determined he was ok, and together with Arlington County Parks and Recreation’s Natural Resources Chief and his team, we released the turkey into a quiet patch of woods in North Arlington. We are so grateful we were able to help this beautiful bird get back to the wild!

The #RosslynTurkey is back where he belongs – in the wild! Earlier today we got a call about a turkey in the road in Rosslyn. On arrival, Officer Barker found a male wild turkey in a construction area, scared and very stressed. She was able to catch the turkey, and brought him back to the shelter so we could make sure he wasn’t hurt. We checked him out, determined he was ok, and together with Arlington County Parks and Recreation’s Natural Resources Chief and his team, we released the turkey into a quiet patch of woods in North Arlington. We are so grateful we were able to help this beautiful bird get back to the wild!

Posted by Animal Welfare League of Arlington on Monday, March 26, 2018

Rosslyn-based WJLA (ABC 7) captured video of the turkey before its capture:

https://twitter.com/ABC7News/status/978350727985758210

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Arlington County residents are now prohibited from keeping various “wild and exotic” animals as pets, including alligators, squirrels and skunks, but can keep non-venomous snakes and hedgehogs.

Anyone who already owns a banned animal will be grandfathered in but must immediately contact the Animal Welfare League of Arlington to register their pet. Current owners will then be able to legally keep their pets through the registry.

The County Board voted unanimously on Tuesday for the new restrictions, which take effect immediately. Anyone found in violation of the new rules could be fined up to $500 a day.

The following animals are banned, according to Arlington County.

  • Non-human primates (monkeys, chimpanzees, etc.)
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Wolves or wolf hybrids
  • Coyotes
  • Squirrels
  • Foxes
  • Leopards
  • Panthers
  • Tigers
  • Lions
  • Bears
  • Wild cats including hybrids (like bobcats, lynx and caracals)
  • Ratites (flightless birds)
  • Crocodilians
  • Venomous snakes, venomous reptiles
  • Any other warm-blooded mammal that can normally be found in the wild state
  • Scorpions other than those in the Pandinus groupwhich are permitted
  • Centipedes of the Scolopendra group
  • The following spider groups: Latrodectus (widow spiders); Loxosceles (recluse spiders); Dipluridae (funnel-web spiders); Phoneutria  (banana spiders aka wandering spiders); Ctenizidae (trap-door spiders); Sicarius (sand spiders); and Theraphosidae (tarantulas), except for Theraphosids native to North and South America and Brachypelma smithi (Mexican redknee tarantula), which are not permitted

Non-venomous snakes are not banned, but the Board set standards for care, handling and enclosures for snakes that weigh more than 25 pounds. That is a change from the previous iteration of the ban in March, which had intended to ban ownership of non-venomous snakes weighing more than 10 pounds.

Each snake must have a microchip and have an enclosure that prevents escape but allows freedom of movement within it.

“What began as a seemingly straightforward effort to ban exotic pets in Arlington became much more complex and nuanced as the process evolved,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “Ultimately, through a lot of conversation with the community, we were able to adopt a Code amendment that reaches a practical balance of the input received from all sides and is enforceable.”

Rabbits, rats, mice, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, hedgehogs, sugar gliders and guinea pigs bred in captivity are permitted as pets. Also allowed as pets are all domestically bred or legally imported birds — other than flightless ratites — plus non-venomous snakes, non-venomous reptiles, amphibians and fish.

County staff said the decision aligns county and state law, and now allows local animal control officers to take actions that previously could only have been taken by state officers.

Photo No. 1: File photo via Facebook/Animal Welfare League of Arlington. Photo No. 2 courtesy Kelly.

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Morning Notes

School Board Approves House Purchase — Despite the objections of some nearby residents, the Arlington School Board last week approved the $525,000 purchase of a home next to Glebe Elementary to provide better emergency vehicle access. “This was not a cohesive, inclusive process – it was done while people were on vacation,” said the head of a local civic association. [InsideNova]

Bat Invades WJLA in Rosslyn — An errant bat caused a commotion at the WJLA (ABC 7) newsroom in Rosslyn Tuesday morning. Eventually the flying mammal was caught by an employee and released outside. [Patch]

Priest Reveals KKK Past — A priest in the Diocese of Arlington revealed in the Arlington Catholic Herald that he was a former KKK member who burned crosses and did other hateful acts, before having a change of heart. Fr. William Aitcheson said he felt compelled to write about his conversion following the events in Charlottesville. [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) The Fairlington neighborhood has a raccoon problem.

A week after a woman was attacked by a raccoon, requiring 87 stitches, another attack happened in Fairlington this morning, according to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

The incident happened on the 4800 block of 28th Street S., AWLA said. That’s the same block as yet another raccoon attack last year.

On a neighborhood Facebook page, the victim’s wife said he was attacked after walking out of his house and, unlike the last week’s attack, no pets were involved.

“One bit him on the leg and the other attempted to get in the house,” the woman said. “Rabies shots required and X-ray of fingers.”

Another neighbor said the attack happened just before 6 a.m.

Animal control officers were unable to locate the raccoons involved in the attack, according to Chief Animal Control Officer Jennifer Toussaint. AWLA is stepping up its response to the attacks, she said via email.

We are actively working on a multifaceted approach to reducing the risk to the public as well as preventing future incidents as quickly as possible. We have reached out to the neighboring animal control agency to quicken potential response times to future incidents. We have contacted a biologist with the VA State Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to access raccoon population management and discuss the most recent incidents and attacks. Animal control formally presented to the Fairlington Villages community and property management last year, with the assistance of the Humane Society of the United States-Urban Wildlife Management, to consider alternative trash policies and other precautionary measures to aid in preventing these types of incidents from occurring while reducing the raccoon population.

It is important that the community stay alert, and that they remove any attractants around their properties including–standing water, trash, and bird feeders. Dogs and domestic pets should be kept inside or on leash at all times. Do not feed or approach any wild, stray, or feral animals, even if they appear friendly or injured. Please make sure your dogs and cats are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations.

Animal control requests that any sightings of raccoons out in the common areas of this community or encroaching on the property in any way be reported immediately at 703-931-9241. Raccoons are known to be carriers of rabies as well as other diseases so any interaction with them (person or pet) should be reported immediately to Arlington County Animal Control. Animal Control is reachable directly 24/7-365 days a year at 703-931-9241.

On the neighborhood Facebook page, a few residents have started calling for the raccoons to be trapped and relocated or shot, though both are illegal. Others say the neighborhood’s condominium associations should reconsider their trash policies.

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Arlingtonians will be able to own non-venomous snakes regardless of size under the latest version of the proposed “wild and exotic” pets ban.

In the new text, there are no prohibitions on owning non-venomous snakes, a change from the previous iteration in March, which said that owners are limited to snakes that weigh 10 pounds or less.

County staff said they made that change, having also previously discussed to ban non-venomous snakes that measured more than 4 feet in length, after further community input and putting together regulations on enclosure, care and handling with residents, animal control officials and veterinarians.

Each snake must have a microchip and have an enclosure that prevents escape but allows freedom of movement within it. There are also stringent rules for any non-venomous snake weighing more than 25 pounds, while constricting snakes are still banned.

Elsewhere in the proposal, hedgehogs and gliders are allowed, while an ambiguity is removed as previous language could have suggested that owning birds or fish as companion animals was not allowed. Ownership of flightless birds like ostriches and emus is still specifically prohibited.

And those wishing to own harmless spiders, scorpions and centipedes are free to do so after more language tweaks, while prohibiting ownership of those that are, as staff put it “harmful and therefore unsuitable in Arlington homes.”

Certain county agencies would now be excluded, if they are using the wild and exotic animals for educational purposes, or for rescue or animal welfare. Arlington Public Schools, for example, would be able to operate an animal program, while zoological animal exhibitions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are allowed too.

As proposed, the updated ordinance calls for fines of up to $250 a day for violations.

Staff noted that some members of the community said that circuses should not be allowed in the county, but they said that Arlington does not have the legal authority to ban such performances.

The Arlington County Board is set to vote Saturday on whether to advertise a public hearing on the proposed ban, which would be held in September.

File photo via Facebook/Animal Welfare League of Arlington

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