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
Beyer: Trump Must Be Removed — Rep. Don Beyer: “Donald Trump is a danger to our democracy. I continue to support his impeachment and removal from office, and am looking carefully at new articles of impeachment being drafted and offered by my colleagues… Congress must ensure Trump’s removal from office by the swiftest and surest method available: confirmation of the American people’s will as expressed in the 2020 election.” [Press Release]
Bishop: ‘Saddened and Appalled’ — From Bishop Michael Burbidge, of the Arlington Diocese: “Today, I was saddened and appalled to see the violence at the US Capitol that disrupted a constitutional process. I ask all people to pray for unity and healing in our nation. May God bless and protect this great country and grant us the peace for which we long.” [Twitter]
Northam: ‘Virginia Will Be There’ — Gov. Ralph Northam: “I continue to pray for the safety of every member of the House and Senate, all the staff, the journalists, everyone who works in the Capitol. And I commend the Virginia National Guard and Virginia State Police for quickly stepping up in this time of great need. Let me be clear: Virginia will be there for as long as it takes to protect our nation’s capital and ensure the peaceful transfer of power.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]
Lopez Discussed Capitol Chaos on BBC — Del. Alfonso Lopez appeared on BBC’s Newsnight, discussing the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol: “This is an extreme group that have bought into the misinformation from the Trump family,” he said. [Twitter]
State to Speed Up Vaccinations — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced new actions to support the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution program and accelerate the pace of vaccinations across Virginia.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]
Now for Something Completely Different — “About this time yesterday I posted a video of an Arlington fox playing with dog toys — I’m just gonna re-post now for anyone who needs a break from today’s news cycle.” [Twitter]
Local Dog Adoption Demand is High — “Kim Williams, who volunteers for the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation of Arlington, Virginia, has tapped into a puppy pipeline of sorts to bring some of Georgia’s homeless pet population to the mid-Atlantic region where they are bombarded by requests for dogs to adopt.” [WMAZ]
American Reducing Service at DCA — “American Airlines is discontinuing service to more than 20 destinations from Reagan National Airport in January, according to new data reported by the Official Airline Guide. Cities and/or airports dropped range from major (New York-JFK; Las Vegas; St. Louis; Minneapolis-St. Paul) to smaller (Jackson, Miss.; Manchester, N.H.; Greensboro, N.C.). Many were served just once or twice per day.” [InsideNova]
Land Transfer May Speed Bridge Project — “Interesting: NPS is ‘supportive’ of conveying four acres of parkland to VA and DC to construct the Long Bridge(s), rather than just permitting. That would likely speed design and construction, and could result in a ped/bike span that doesn’t compromise as much on width and lighting in order to conform to NPS interests.” [@CarFreeHQ2/Twitter]
Local Wildlife Caught on Camera — “Arlington resident Levi Novey and his wife Alicia have captured footage documenting quite an array of critters passing through their yard via a fence that Levi has dubbed a ‘wildlife superhighway…’ So far their fence camera has photographed foxes, raccoons, mice, housecats, chipmunks, and lots of birds and possums.” [WJLA]
Redistricting Commission Applications Open — “Beginning Monday, Virginians will have a month to apply for one of eight public seats on the state’s new redistricting commission, which has begun its work with a panel of retired judges setting out plans for the application process.” [Washington Post]
Stormy Day Today — “Get ready for a wild weather finish to November. A strong storm system develops and moves through… bringing a mix of hazards to our area in a short time frame, capped off by the potential for strong to possibly severe storms Monday afternoon. No specific warnings or advisories have been issued, but expect a good soaking of one to two-plus inches of rain (and some wild temperature swings).” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
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
It’s Veterans Day — Today is Veterans Day, and as a result of the holiday government offices are closed and metered parking is not being enforced. Per the county, Arlington is currently home to about 13,000 veterans. [Arlington County]
Trump Scheduled for Cemetery Visit –“To mark Veterans Day… President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will visit Arlington National Cemetery. The President will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown [Soldier],” according to CBS News producer Sara Cook. [Twitter, Washington Examiner]
Man Exposes Himself a Block from Police HQ — “At approximately 12:05 p.m. on November 9, police were dispatched to the late report of an exposure. Upon arrival, it was determined that approximately an hour prior, the female victim was inside her parked vehicle when she observed the suspect expose himself. Arriving officers located the suspect and took him into custody without incident.” [ACPD]
From Record Warmth to Heavy Rain — Tuesday “set new daily record highs at the three major climate-observing locations in the Washington-Baltimore region. Washington reached 76 degrees, tying a record set in 1999.” Meanwhile, heavy rain is expected later today. [Capital Weather Gang]
County Updating Natural Resources Plan — “Arlington County is updating its Forestry and Natural Resources Plan to conserve, plant, and maintain wildlife there. Over the next year, the project team will be collecting comments from the public about the county’s conservation and maintenance. The county hosted its first public comment session on Tuesday.” [WDVM]
About Today — ARLnow will be publishing on a limited schedule today due to the holiday.
Coyotes have been known to roam around Arlington, but sightings of the bashful wild canines are relatively rare.
Nonetheless, a coyote is causing a stir in the Fairlington area after being spotted multiple times around the neighborhood, according to posts on a local Facebook group.
The Animal Welfare League of Arlington, which runs the county’s animal control operation, says it’s aware of the coyote sightings. The animal’s behavior, however, is so far not sounding any alarm bells.
“[We] received three calls from the public yesterday about a coyote spotted behind Abington Elementary School,” AWLA spokeswoman Chelsea Jones told ARLnow last night. “All the calls reported the coyote was exhibiting normal behavior, and by the time [an animal control officer] arrived the coyote was gone.”
“Coyotes do live in Arlington County, although sighting are typically rare,” Jones said. “They pose no threat to humans. We do, as always, recommend keeping your pets inside when not supervised, for this, and many other reasons.”
The last time we reported on an instance of a coyote spotted out in the open in Arlington was five years ago, when one was photographed along Washington Blvd.
“These animals learn to live next to humans and not mess with humans,” Arlington Natural Resource Manager Alonso Abugattas told ARLnow.com in 2014. “There have been cases, however, where feral cats and loose dogs, coyotes will occasionally eat a smaller dog, both as a competitor and as prey. Cats are considered prey as well. That’s the only way that they might affect the public.”
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) A bear was spotted near Bishop O’Connell High School this morning.
The bear was spotted in the private high school’s parking lot by a construction crew, around 6:30 a.m., as seen in the photo above. It was later spotted around 7 a.m. closer to I-66.
“All the neighbors in the area saw it,” one poster said. “The workers saw it too.”
The Animal Welfare League of Arlington confirmed to ARLnow that its animal control unit responded to the area but was unable to locate the bear.
“Arlington County Animal Control was promptly alerted as was the Arlington County Police Department, Virginia State Conservation Officers, the Arlington County Natural Resource Manager, and Fairfax County Animal Protection Police,” AWLA said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“The bear appeared to be a yearling male… Animal Control quickly responded and monitored the area but was unable to locate the bear and there was no property damage,” the statement continued. “The bear did not approach any people, pets, or residences and quickly left the area. If a resident ever sees a bear we ask that they keep a large distance and immediately report to Animal Control at 703-931-9241. Animal Control is continuing to monitor the area to ensure the bear has moved on.”
Alonso Abugattas, Arlington County Natural Resource Manager, also released a statement.
Bears, especially young males, travel away from their families and often, as they don’t know as much as older bears, into new areas that perhaps are not ideal for them. They are shy and almost always try to get away from people, would like for you to leave them alone as well. Eventually they either find their way back to more wild settings or are helped to get there. They are almost always not a danger and just would like to be left alone. If you find one, just calmly report it. If you know they’re around you, don’t leave trash cans, pet food, and bird feeders around that may attract them. This is not an uncommon occurrence as bear numbers have really built up. For example, there are 4 bears this calendar year that have been seen in Fairfax.
A bear was spotted in the Reston area two weeks ago, our sister site Reston Now reported.
“It’s not uncommon to spot bears this time of year as they wander into residential areas in search of food,” Reston Now write. “County officials say that bears may be drawn into populated areas because of the smell of food. Other things that attract bears include garbage, compost piles, fruit trees, beehives and berry-producing shrubs.”
Photos courtesy Animal Welfare League of Arlington
(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) The G.O.A.T. Sports Bar in Clarendon will be hosting a fundraiser to help animals affected by the recent, devastating wildfires in Australia next week.
The event will kick off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11, and run through closing. Entrance to the event will cost $10, which includes two drink tickets. The proceeds will go to Animals Australia, an animal protection nonprofit.
“Animals Australia is providing resources and support to expert veterinarians and caretakers tending to needs of affected wildlife,” the sports bar said in a press release.
The sports bar and lounge is located at 3028 Wilson Blvd, across from the Clarendon Metro station.
A young red-tailed hawk that fell out of a tree “like a sack potatoes” near the Virginia Square Metro entrance is being nursed back to health.
The Animal Welfare League of Arlington said one of its animal control officers was able to safely capture the ailing hawk, and it’s now on the road to recovery at a “local bird of prey rehabber.”
More from AWLA’s Facebook post:
Thanks to our community working together, this juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk is now safe and sound! Earlier this week, our officers received a call about a bird that “fell out of a tree like a sack of potatoes” in front of the Virginia Square metro station. Officer Rose was dispatched to the scene, and was able to safely capture him and bring him to one of our local bird of prey rehabbers. They determined that the hawk was young and underweight, and so will care for him until he is back at a healthy weight and can be released back into the wild.
Thank you to everyone who helped get this hawk on the road to recovery!
Photo via AWLA/Facebook
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]
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