Deer Problems and Issues
Deer / Car Collisions
The burgeoning Whitetail deer population throughout the suburban areas of northern Virginia is resulting in an increasing number of conflicts between deer and people. The most serious of these are collisions between automobiles and deer. These can result in extensive property damage, bodily injury, and in some cases even death.
Another area of concern involves health issues. Whitetail deer are a primary host to Black Legged (deer) ticks, the carrier of several human diseases. The best known of these is Lyme Disease, but ticks also carry other diseases with even more grave consequences. In addition to tick borne diseases, deer herds can become infected with other diseases that don't effect humans like EHD. Diseases similar to EHD are found in domestic animals like horses, cattle, and sheep.
Property damage is another result of the growing Whitetail population. Home gardens and landscaping are expensive in both financial terms and in the homeowners time and efforts in maintenance. Even when natural foods abound in local area, deer are often attracted to the rich succulent plants of the backyard landscape. Natural foods are limited by the natural pH and nutrients of the soil and are in competition with neighboring plants for sunlight. In the backyard, trees, plants, and gardens are usually enhanced by things like pH normalization, fertilizer, and pruning. In addition, the woodlot openings created by our home sites provide additional sunlight to our domestic plantings. When natural food supplies are limited either seasonally or by over use by deer, the backyard becomes a magnet for deer.
Whitetail deer in large numbers can cause significant habitat damage even on relatively large tracks of land like some of our parks. Deer are primarily browsers. Over browsing in an area can have a negative environmental impact. Thick and diverse near ground cover provides the nesting sites needed by many species of birds. It also provides food for other animals. Over browsing creates an unbalanced situation. Some browsing tolerant plant species flourish at the expense and even elimination of other less tolerant species.
Animal Rights, Stewardship and Exploitation
It is a simple fact of life today that people in today's society have very diverse viewpoints concerning the relationship between man, nature, and the environment. As America has become first urbanized and suburbanized, the percentage of Americans working on farms has diminished greatly. Farm life allowed people to gain first hand experience with animals from many different perspectives. The family dog was a faithful friend and companion as well as a working asset on the farm. Livestock were a precious resource. They were managed and tended with care but their eventual slaughter provided both much needed food and income to the farm. Wildlife was viewed as both and asset as well as a competitor. Bees pollinated the crops, worms composted and aerated the soil yet deer fed on crops and coyotes, wolves, and foxes would pray on livestock. Other wildlife species like squirrels and songbirds were viewed as neutral.
For many years as cities and suburbs grew, peoples close up experience with animals became more and more limited to life with the family pet. It is no wonder that over time the view of many Americans toward animals has changed. To some, they are all warm and furry creatures needing help and protection. Others take an even more extreme view anthropomorphizing animals and bestowing "rights" on them. Others even more extreme view these "Animal Rights" as eclipsing the rights of man.
On the other side of the coin we have exploitation of the environment. Wolves and other predatory animals were hunted, trapped, and poisoned to near extinction. Some unregulated mining companies stripped the land in search of coal, polluted streams and rivers with sulfur mine drainage, with only profits in mind. There are many other examples of exploitation of the environment to numerous to enumerate.Although may not agree with those who promote concepts of exploitation or "Animal Rights" we do support their rights within the law to promote their positions. We support the position of stewardship. The riches of the natural world are not ours to exploit. On the other hand, we don't believe that man can or should abstain from wisely using these natural wonders. We believe that nature should be stewarded and used wisely. We support the concept of stewardship by responsible non-confrontational action. As we seek to apply this to the Whitetail herd in northern Virginia, we consult with biologists. We take special precautions to avoid offending the sensibilities of those who find hunting and the killing of animals objectionable.