Urban deer hunt angers Falls Church resident

WASHINGTON – Two days before the end of urban archery season, at least one resident of Falls Church, Va., is questioning why deer are allowed to be hunted in her neighborhood.

Virginia’s urban archery season is open to a select group of hunters who obtain special hunting permits to thin deer herds in urban areas, says Lee Walker, outreach director with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the state agency which regulates hunting.

Designated hunting zones differ from county to county but can include public parks and private property. In Fairfax County, the urban hunting season stretches from January through April 26.

Falls Church resident and WUSA9 reporter Jessica Doyle tells WTOP that she found a deer dead in her back yard last week after a pair of hunters knocked on her door and asked to walk on her property to collect the animal.

They were hunters affiliated with the non-profit Suburban Whitetail Management of Northern Virginia, she says.

One of her neighbors had contacted the group to come and thin the deer population in the area, but that neighbor never told anyone else to be on the look out for hunters, Doyle says.

Doyle says she worries that her children, even herself, or neighbors working in their gardens are at risk of being hit by an arrow.

“I’m furious,” she says. “It doesn’t feel safe enough for me as a parent.”

So far, there have been no calls to re-evaluate the urban archery season. The state law permitting the practice has been upheld in the courts, she says.

Homes in Doyle’s neighborhood sit on quarter-acre lots and have wood areas behind them. Doyle’s property is near county-owned land, where she likes to go for walks with her 8-year-old daughter.

“We should know that there’s this potential danger.”

But Great Falls resident Jerry Peters tells WUSA9 that he supports the hunters’ efforts to control the deer population. The deer fall into pools, raid bird feeders and damage landscaping.

He says bow hunting is safe.

Walker, with the Game and Inland Fisheries, agrees the practice is safe. Bow hunting accidents are few statewide and typically involve hunters falling out of tree stands.

Bow hunting is used in urban areas because the bows are accurate, are used within close range – just 20 to 30 feet, and are quiet. They are also used because many cities and counties ban the use of firearms for hunting, Walker says.

The hunters who collected the deer from Doyle’s yard broke no laws, he says.

A conservation officer investigated Doyle’s complaint and determined the hunters had the proper permit. They shot the deer in a designated zone for urban hunting but the deer ran out of that area and into Doyle’s yard, Walker says.

“They out-compete for the amount of space they have to live in. They literally starve themselves to death or disease becomes an issue,” he says.

Overpopulated deer herds can also become nuisances to their human neighbors by eating rose bushes or running into traffic, he says.

“This is strictly a management tool … to reduce the deer population,” he says.

In 2012, bow hunters killed more than 1,200 deer on private property, according to Fairfax County.

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