The Arlington deer population exceeds ‘healthy’ levels, research shows

Oh deer: Arlington officially has a white tail problem.

A study has found that some parts of Arlington have deer populations three to five times larger than what is 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 accurate measure ever for Arlington’s deer population, according to the county.

From 8.-12. April, drones were registered, and the independent company Steward Green confirmed the presence of 290 deer in Arlington, according to the report. The company recommends more “management”, where the populations are the highest and greater surveillance everywhere else.

Following the publication of the report in the fall, the county intends to hire a consultant for the winter, who will determine what that management strategy should be.

While white-tailed deer can contribute to a region’s natural habitat, elevated populations inhibit the growth of young trees and damage local flora and fauna, according to the report. They also pose problems for humans, such as collisions with vehicles that have crashed in Arlington since 2020 but are still common in Virginia.

“High deer densities … can lead to unacceptable levels of damage to native ecosystems, crops, commercial and residential landscaping, as well as increased safety concerns from the impact of deer vehicles and tick-borne diseases,” the report said in the fall.

Deer populations across the country exceed what the soil can support, the report says.

“All areas examined in this study have a deer density that is likely to be beyond the carrying capacity threshold, have intensified invasive flora, have depleted habitats for (tick-eating) terrestrial birds (oven birds, etc.) … and have possible starvation. / disease of the deer, “the report said.

Wildlife biologists, ecologists and environmental professionals consider five to 15 deer per. square kilometers to be “healthy”, according to the report. The consultants recommend that suburbs aim for 10 deer per. square kilometers. 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 to the map below, the densities varied between 20 and 39 deer per. square kilometers.

Section G, which includes the Army Navy Country Club and is bounded by Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Blvd and I-395, had 20 deer per. square kilometers.

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 kilometers.

Section A, which includes the North Arlington neighborhoods near Marymount University, Potomac Overlook Regional Park and Donaldson Run and is bounded by Langston Blvd and Old Dominion Drive, had 33 deer per hectare. square kilometers.

Section F, which includes neighborhoods north of Columbia Pike near the county’s western border, had 39 deer per capita. square kilometers.

Total deer per. section in Arlington (via Arlington County)

The consultant says the number 290 is likely to be conservative due to “the challenges of daytime collection,” and recommended future counts obtain permission to fly at night. The drone had to dodge low-flying helicopters and aircraft and had blurry readings due to the presence of competing heat sources.

For the four sections with the most deer, Steward Green recommends “more aggressive deer management” and advises the county’s parks and recreation department to “keep a constant eye on the other sections’ white-tailed deer populations.”

“Arlington County is in a unique position in the Northeastern United States to sustain biodiversity habitats and reduce problems that a denser herd may incur,” the organization said. “This can be achieved through continued data collection and monitoring, a quality deer management program and most importantly through public training of ecosystem services and wildlife management.”

A presentation in September said the county is set to hire a consultant who will make an assessment to decide whether a management strategy should be implemented and – if so – what kind. A community engagement period has not yet been set, but the consultant is expected to be hired for the winter and then present results to the county board in the summer of 2022.

Deer pr. square kilometers per. section in Arlington (via Arlington County)


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