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The young, mangy Fairlington fox that’s roaming around Fairlington and the efforts to trap it has become an object of fascination on local social networks.

The saga started over the past week or so when several community members started spotting a sickly, young fox wandering around streets and in between houses. Appearing on the verge of being hairless, it was clear that the fox had mange — a potentially fatal skin disease that causes loss of fur and is caused by microscope mites.

Beyond impacting foxes, mange is also dangerous to household pets and can cause severe itching in humans as well. The disease can potentially be resolved with medication, however.

Karen Dadey, Fairlington resident and a retired major in the U.S. Army, sprung into action. She contacted the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA) and, then, proceeded to set up a trap herself in hopes of getting the fox to a wildlife rehabber as quickly as possible.

Dadey put a camera near the trap as well, baited it with a 7-Eleven cherry pie — at the advice of an expert, she said — and posted daily videos onto Nextdoor and the popular “Fairlington Appreciation Society” Facebook group in hopes of encouraging others to help.

Dadey admitted to ARLnow that this was her first time doing something of this nature, but felt like something needed to be done quickly.

“I’m just leaning in as a private citizen, trying to do the right thing for my neighborhood, to keep our pets safe and our wildlife safe,” she told ARLnow.

She ended up getting three other volunteers to help monitor the trap, replacing the bait and water bowl, and releasing any other animals that may have inadvertently wandered in. That included several squirrels and a neighborhood cat.

While many applauded her efforts in the comments, some argued that “capturing a wild animal is a really bad idea, not to mention illegal.” They urged her to “leave this to the professionals.” Those exhortations have been met from strong pushback from supporters of the amateur effort to save the fox.

Dadey called those positing critical comments “bullies.”

Images of a young, mangy fox wandering around Fairlington (image via Facebook)

Both Dadey and her critics, however, seem to approve of what happened next. Within days, the professionals at AWLA got wind of what was happening and replaced Dadey’s trap with one of theirs.

Chief of Animal Control Jennifer Toussaint posted on the neighborhood Facebook group, providing background on fox behaviors and advising against handling, interacting, or feeding the animals. She also cautioned that helping a fox with mange can be very challenging.

“For the young fox in the photos we want to be up front and honest with the public. Finding rehabbers willing to take a yearling fox with mange is near impossible,” Toussaint wrote in the post. “This illness is highly transmissible to other animals they have in care and they most commonly recommend humane euthanasia.”

Dadey said that at least one of these issues has been resolved, having already arranged with the Nirvana Ridge Wildlife Refuge near Culpepper, Virginia to take the young fox and nurse it back to health.

In the days since, though, the fox still hasn’t been caught.

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Bear spotted in Arlington Monday (photo courtesy Animal Welfare League of Arlington)

A bear was spotted walking around an Arlington neighborhood this morning, prompting a warning from animal control.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington said it confirmed a resident’s report of a young black bear roaming around, “likely… in his search for a new home habitat.”

“While bear sightings are rare in Arlington County, they are not unheard of,” AWLA said. “Unfortunately in past bear sightings, we have had issues with members of the public going out in search of the bear to take their own photos or see it for themselves. This is VERY dangerous.”

Residents who see the bear are asked to “call AWLA immediately” at 703-931-9241 and advised to keep a safe distance or get inside.

Patch reported earlier that the bear “was spotted in Arlington’s Maywood community Monday morning, walking through people’s yards and onto porches as it headed to a park on the east side of the neighborhood near the Custis Trail.”

Just over two years ago a black bear was seen walking around near Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington. Animal control officers were unable to locate the bear after the initial sighting.

More from AWLA, below, on the latest bear incident.

On June 5th, 2022, a young black bear was spotted by a member of the public in Arlington County. Our Animal Control Officers confirmed the sighting and immediately contacted the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) and Virginia State biologist. The bear seems healthy and is likely a male yearling moving through Arlington Co in his search for a new home habitat. We are continuing to update these agencies as the location of the bear changes.

While bear sightings are rare in Arlington County, they are not unheard of. Unfortunately in past bear sightings, we have had issues with members of the public going out in search of the bear to take their own photos or see it for themselves. This is VERY dangerous, and can cause harm to you, others, and the bear. Instead, we ask that residents call AWLA immediately at (703) 931-9241 if they spot the bear, and keep to a safe distance or indoors.

We also urge residents follow these recommendations from DWR:

  • Secure garbage: Keep in a locked shed or inside until collected or use a bear resistant container.
  • Secure any compost piles
  • Take down bird feeders.
  • Secure pet food in bear-resistant containers or inside locked sheds.
  • Clean up porches/decks: Clean grills including drip pans, remove any potential food sources, and remember a screened in porch is not a “secure” storage area from a bear’s point of view.
  • Never leave food, trash, or pet food inside your vehicle.
  • Keep dogs on a leash at all times

Thank you for helping us keep people and wildlife safe in Arlington!

 

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Ballston Beaver Pond is in need of a new name because, well, there are no more beavers.

An online survey to rename Ballston Beaver Pond is set to close on Wednesday, June 1, as renovations at the pond are on hold due to a delay in material delivery.

Residents are asked to suggest names for the pond that either “reflect a park’s unique character and features” or one that “honors someone who made a significant and positive impact to Arlington County,” the survey says. Prior to the renovation, the pond was home to a variety of wildlife, including beavers. But the county is installing beaver baffles to discourage them from returning and building dams again.

The survey says residents will also be able to weigh in on a list of potential park names, compiled at least in part from the survey, in June. Aileen Winquist, the communication manager for the renovation project, said the final name is set to be presented to the Arlington County Board in September.

Renovations at the Ballston pond, which include converting it from a dry pond to a wetland, are paused because of a delay in the delivery of a concrete block that will be installed in the upper part of the pond, according to the project’s website. Winquist said the block is expected to arrive in mid-June.

“That’s kind of the last grading work that will need to be done,” she said. Much of the excavation and grading work was completed in April.

“The contractor has made excellent progress so far and the project is on schedule,” she said. The renovations are expected to wrap up in July 2023.

After installing the concrete block, which Winquist said would be a settling area for sediment and trash from water coming into the pond, renovations will continue with building viewing platforms and planting vegetation.

“The remaining work will be to install the platform — there’s a viewing platform on the east side of the pond — and then to do all the planting,” she said, adding “thousands of plants will be planted in the pond.”

The renovation process faced a series of interruptions before it began in December 2021. The project was planned, but in a holding pattern, between 2013 and 2019. It went into hiatus soon after the redesigned project went public in 2019 due to “COVID-19 and related budget concerns,” according to a county report in June 2021.

The current renovation project is a “high-priority project” in the county’s Stormwater Management Program and “contributes to restoring the Chesapeake Bay,” according to the project’s website.

Other renovation measures listed include constructing turtle basking stations and other wildlife components, planting wetland vegetation, and removing invasive species. The design plan for the project also includes spaces for a shrub wetland and a marsh.

The pond was initially built as a dry pond, which she said meant stormwater runoff from I-66 would temporarily sit in the pond area. That changed after the beavers arrived and built their dams. The renovations, meanwhile, aim to convert the pond into a wetland.

“The pond will have a lot of flow channels for the water to flow through, and as it’s filtered through the wetland plants and soils, that will remove pollutants from the stormwater runoff,” Winquist said.

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Morning Notes

A pedestrian crosses Wilson Blvd. near a protected bike lane with artificial sunflowers (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fish Kill in Four Mile Run Last Week — “Anyone visiting lower Four Mile Run in the last several days should have noticed many dead fish, large and small, along the streambank and floating out in the water, the result of a pollution incident that occurred some time Thursday, May 12.” [Four Mile Run Conservatory Foundation]

Rumor: Board Members May Not Run Again — “My spies in the Arlington Democratic infrastructure say odds favor neither County Board member up for election in 2023 actually running for a third term. And if Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey do skedaddle (and just as they’d start earning some bigger bucks …), the field would seem to be wide open.” [Sun Gazette]

More Big Changes at DCA — “Reagan National Airport is about to go through a massive rebranding. Because of recent expansions, the airport will be split into Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Terminal 1 will be the original airport building housing the A gates. Terminal 2 will house the newly named B, C, D and E gates. More than 1,000 signs in and around the airport will be changed starting June 4.” [NBC 4]

Arlington Apartment Buildings Bought — “Cortland, one of the largest apartment owners in the U.S., is making a huge entrance to Greater Washington, acquiring four Arlington multifamily properties in an expected $1B investment. The Atlanta-based investment firm acquired a newly developed 23-story, 331-unit apartment building in Rosslyn and a 534-unit building in Pentagon City, Cortland announced Wednesday.” [Bisnow, Washington Business Journal]

County Honors Trees, Volunteers — “Mother Nature is smiling! Arlington County recognized five individuals who volunteer at Bon Air Park as recipients of the 2021 Bill Thomas Park Volunteer Award and highlighted its 2022 Notable Trees — both which honor the people and natural resources that preserve Arlington’s green spaces — during the Arlington County Board’s recessed meeting on May 17.” [Arlington County]

Wawa Coming to Falls Church — “Philadelphia-area convenience store chain Wawa is under contract to ground-lease the shuttered Stratford Motor Lodge site in the city of Falls Church, which it will replace with a roughly 6,000-square-foot store — but no gas pumps… The motor lodge closed last fall, the Falls Church News Press reported.” [Washington Business Journal]

Four Mile Run Dredging Approaching — “Alexandria and Arlington will start clearing debris and dredging Four Mile Run in September, and the project will close sections of [an Alexandria] park from the public for four to six months. The City and County maintain a shared flood-control channel in the lower portion of the nine-mile-long stream, and have partnered to dredge Four Mile Run since 1974.” [ALXnow]

It’s Thursday — Rain early in the morning, then clearing later in the day. High of 82 and low of 61. Sunrise at 5:54 am and sunset at 8:19 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A bunny, improbably inside the Pentagon courtyard

If you thought the Pentagon chicken was impressive, wait until you hear about the Pentagon courtyard bunny.

In what might be the world’s fluffiest and most adorable infiltration of a secure military installation, a bunny was recently spotted hopping around in the 5.1 acre outdoor courtyard at the center of the headquarters of the U.S. Dept. of Defense, ARLnow has learned.

There is no official confirmation of the bunny’s existence — the DoD said it does not keep tabs on small, harmless animals in the courtyard — but we have obtained photographic evidence, above, and an eyewitness account.

“I just wanted to highlight that while the Pentagon Chicken is receiving its 15 minutes of fame, the Pentagon Bunny actually successfully infiltrated the Pentagon,” a tipster tells ARLnow. “It is currently living peacefully somewhere in the Pentagon’s courtyard, a location that is likely the most heavily guarded rabbit burrow on the planet… that is until the restaurant in the Courtyard decides to have an extremely locally sourced courtyard-to-table special.”

Given that it is outdoors and has plenty of trees and people eating meals, the courtyard is naturally a hangout spot for birds, which can simply fly in. It’s unclear how a bunny would have hopped into a place surrounded by five rings of some of the most secure office space on earth, though there are some theories.

“Aside from birds I have not seen any other wildlife. That is why I thought the rabbit was so notable,” the tipster said. “A bunch of us were trying to figure out how the rabbit made it into the courtyard since there are no obvious points of entry. The current hypothesis is that the bunny was carried into the courtyard by the hawks that were nesting in one of the trees and dropped before it was fed to the offspring.”

Aerial view of the Pentagon (Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman)

A Pentagon spokesperson sent an appropriately non-specific response to ARLnow’s inquiry about the small mammal that’s apparently living inside the courtyard’s five walls.

“From time to time there may be various species of animals on the reservation that make it to the Center Courtyard,” said Sue Gough, Department of Defense spokesperson. “We normally do not intervene unless the animals create a hazard to building occupants, or the animal is at risk from our activities. In those situations, we will try to have it leave on its own accord, or capture it and release it to the environment where it is distanced from our activities (e.g., land adjacent to Boundary Channel).”

Pressed about this particular bunny, the official word from the DoD — which is a bit busy at the moment — is that they’re not sure.

“We don’t track individual wildlife unless there is a safety hazard to building occupants or the animal,” Gough said.

The Pentagon chicken, on the other hand, attracted national media attention after the Animal Welfare League of Arlington revealed that it had taken custody of the rogue poultry at the request of the DoD, after it was found wandering around a secure area outside of the building.

The chicken went viral on social media, now has its own t-shirt line, and even earned a Jimmy Fallon-sung ballad on the Tonight Show.

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Deer in Bluemont Park (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

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.”

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A coyote was spotted in Arlington Forest, near Lubber Run (courtesy of Amy Cocuzza)

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 

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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.

Total deer per section in Arlington (via Arlington County)

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.

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Work began yesterday (Wednesday) on the long-delayed Ballston Beaver Pond remediation project — but no busy beavers will be involved.

The $4.2 million, 18-month project approved by the County Board this summer will retrofit the pond, originally built in 1980 to collect stormwater runoff from I-66. Today, sediment in the pond prevents detention, and it instead has become home to abundant wildlife, including beavers, according to a county report.

The project, expected to wrap up in July 2023, aims to improve stormwater retention and the wildlife habitat by restoring native plant species and adding habitat features. There will be a new observation platform with educational signage, seating and a reconstructed trail with bike racks.

Arlington County says the new two-acre wetland area will provide stormwater treatment to 460 acres of land in the Lubber Run watershed, and “is among the County’s most effective opportunities to achieve its water quality objectives and meet its regulatory requirements.”

This month, the construction contractor will be setting up the site, county project manager Aileen Winquist tells ARLnow. Excavation will begin next year.

“From now until the end of the year, neighbors will see the contractor bringing in equipment and setting up the boundaries of the construction area,” she said. “In the new year, neighbors will begin to see dump trucks full of sediment removed from the pond leaving the site.”

Public access will be limited as well. The grass area within the park will be off-limits, as it will be used for construction. A bike and pedestrian detour will reroute trail users from Washington Blvd to the Custis Trail and along the south side of the pond.

The detour will be in place for the entirety of construction, Winquist says.

A bicycle detour around the Ballston Beaver Pond construction project (via Arlington County)

The project is divided into a few phases, as work can only occur on one half of the pond at a time, Winquist said.

First, workers will remove sediment from and re-grade a half of the pond while removing invasive plants.

After the second half of the pond receives the same treatment, construction will begin on a new observation platform, trail upgrades, native species planting and new habitat features, including basking stations for turtles, she said.

The project is a long time in coming.

After community engagement in 2011-12, the project was paused in 2013 until the necessary easements were obtained from property owners. A redesigned project with new permits went to the public in January 2019, but “COVID-19 and related budget concerns” again delayed the project, the report says.

Still, those nearby welcome the pond redo, according to the report.

“The community continues to be very supportive of the project and it is highly anticipated by Ballston area residents and businesses,” it said.

But once beaver baffles are installed to discourage these critters from returning — and damming the pond again, which could compromise water quality — the wetland area will need a new name.

“This beautiful natural area needs a name that fits its unique space,” says Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Martha Holland.

Next year, the county plans to ask the community for name ideas and provide an opportunity to comment on a list of potential names.

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Morning Notes

Kadera Concerned By Test Score Drop — “Give Democratic School Board endorsee Mary Kadera credit for recognizing the elephant in the room. At the Sept. 8 Arlington Committee of 100 campaign forum, Kadera acknowledged the massive drops in scores on state Standards of Learning exams (SOLs) as Arlington students were locked at home over the past school year. And, she said, steps need to be taken to get back on track.” [Sun Gazette]

Ruthie’s Makes National ‘Gem’ List — Arlington Heights restaurant Ruthie’s All Day has made “OpenTable’s 100 Best Neighborhood Gems in America for 2021” list. The southern-inspired restaurant will soon be celebrating its one-year anniversary. [OpenTable, Restaurant News]

Metal Grid Near Airport Explained — “Fencing in part of Roaches Run near Reagan National Airport is designed to protect native plants put in by the National Park Service. The enclosures keep carp and turtles from nibbling on cattails, willows and alders.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Michael McCullough

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Birds are dying in large numbers across Arlington and much of the D.C. area, prompting an investigation.

Dead birds have become an eerily common sight along local roads and sidewalks, and a common discussion thread in local Nextdoor groups. The wave of bird deaths this month — which seemingly corresponded with the emergence of Brood X cicadas — has also caught the attention of local and state authorities.

“Beginning on Tuesday, May 18… Animal Control began receiving an increase in the number of calls regarding sick/injured juvenile birds, specifically Grackles and Blue Jays,” wrote Animal Welfare League of Arlington Animal Control Chief Jennifer Toussaint. “Eye issues were reported in what otherwise looked like healthy juvenile birds, causing blindness and the birds to land and stay on the ground. Animal Control is now seeing additional species of birds affected. Other agencies and localities across the region and state are reporting similar issues at this time.”

Arlington County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas tells ARLnow that the issue “is widespread” across the region and is a hot topic of conversation among local naturalists.

“We have received numerous [reports]… from numerous places outside the county as well,” he said, adding that he is in contact with the state biologist about the matter.

“He is investigating and will examine the birds,” said Abugattas.

In addition to Arlington, an increase in dead birds has been reported in Fairfax County, Bethesda, and parts of D.C., according to Nextdoor posts viewed by ARLnow. One post, from a wildlife veterinarian, suggests that a bacterial disease may be behind the phenomenon — but the information is very preliminary.

“The resolution of [a bird’s symptoms] after administration of an antibiotic suggests that this is a bacterial infection, not a virus,” the veterinarian wrote. “Hopefully we will have more definitive answers from the lab in a couple of weeks.”

AWLA says it is in contact with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, which is performing tests on a selection of deceased birds.

“We await any results that may shed more light on the current situation,” the organization said. “At this time we are asking members of the public to dispose of these birds promptly when found on their property.”

The league provided the following safety tips for residents who dispose of dead birds.

  • “Wear hand covering (such as gloves) and avoid any direct contact with the birds”
  • “Consider picking up the birds using the same method you would for pet waste. Invert a bag over your hand, pick up the bird, and then pull the bag over the bird, tying with a knot at the top before disposal.”
  • “Dispose of in waste receptacle outside of the home… use diligent hand washing following”

Another tip: don’t use insecticide on cicadas, which can poison whatever creature later eats them.

ALWA is also encouraging residents to report dead birds via an online form, and to report dead and injured birds on public property via phone.

“If a resident finds an injured bird or deceased birds on public playgrounds, parks, and fields please promptly call Arlington County Animal Control promptly at 703-931-9241,” the organization said. “We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work with State Agencies to better understand and address this issue.”

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