Lethal and Non-lethal Controls
Non-lethal damage control methods can limit the effects of deer damage, but do not reduce the cause.
Deer repellants such as rotten eggs, coyote urine, human hair, and soap solutions can be sprayed on vegetation, but only work when deer have alternate sources of food.
Exclusion - Fences that are at least 8 feet high are effective barriers. They prevent damages to plants within a fence, but do nothing for the other types of deer damage. Tree tubes do increase the survival of saplings. The hungrier deer are, the higher the fence they will attempt to jump if there is food on the other side.
Deer Resistant Landscape Plants – Hungry deer will eat anything before they die of hunger. Switching to unpalatable landscape plants is only useful in areas with low to moderate deer feeding pressure.
Lyme disease - If a tick is attached to skin for less than 24 hours, the chance of getting Lyme disease is small. For this reason, daily checks for ticks and promptly removing attached ticks will help prevent infection. Individuals who are bitten by a black-legged tick may wish to consult their health care provider. When detected early, Lyme disease can be mild and is easily treated with oral antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin or penicillin. Even in the late stages, Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics, but the treatment lasts longer and is more involved.
Vehicle Collisions - The only prevention for collisions with deer is to drive carefully. Be especially careful in the fall when bucks are in the rut. Deer whistles and reflectors do not work to scare deer away from vehicles.
Contraceptives – Gonacon vaccine is currently being evaluated as an infertility agent in wildlife. It may be effective for multiple years and would need to be administered only once for each doe. Does must be trapped and injected with the vaccine – there are no oral contraceptives for deer. The USDA scientists who developed Gonacon state that it may be of use in maintaining low deer densities, but only after densities are reduced to desired levels by lethal methods. See more information about Gonacon at Animal Welfare Concerns - Use Alternatives Other Than Archery.
Lethal controls directly address the cause of deer damages, too many deer.
Sharpshooting - High-powered rifles have been used by police for target practice in selected County parks for several years. Taking deer by sharpshooting may preserve some habitat within the parks, but the impact outside the parks is not noticeable. The number of deer taken each year is limited by County budgets for SWAT team training.
Managed Shotgun - Shotgun hunts have been a staple of the Fairfax County Deer Management Program for years. Conducted only at large parks distant from any development in the western part of the County, hunters are chosen by lottery and assigned to specific sites on scheduled days to hunt from tree stands. All of these parks are in parts of the County where weapon ordinances allow use of shotguns on large properties.
Controlled Archery - In 2009, the County Wildlife Biologist and the Fairfax County Parks Authority organized controlled archery hunts in two parks. The hunts were successful in demonstrating that skilled, respectful archers can harvest numbers of deer safely and with high retrieval rates of wounded deer. Fairfax County Park Authority has added more parks each year. In 2013, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority began to participate in the County's archery program as well. For the 2014 - 2015 season, 65 parks are being hunted by archers. Approximately 14,000 acres are being hunted in these 65 parks constituting 5.5 percent of Fairfax County's land area.
Recreational Hunting – Harvesting deer on public lands can only go so far in reducing deer populations across the County. Only 15% of land in Fairfax County is publicly owned and much less is deer suitable for harvesting deer. Most deer habitat that is suitable for harvesting deer is on private property. Recreational hunting is practiced by property owners or others to whom a property owner gives explicit permission. Fairfax County ordinances limit hunting with guns to shotguns in prescribed locations (generally Great Falls and Clifton) on contiguous properties totaling 20 acres or more. Archery can be used across the County and is encouraged by the County’s adoption of an Urban Archery Season.
- Bringing controlled archery to private properties is one way that Green Fire differs from the approaches above. Because private properties will usually be smaller than parks and archers will be closer to residences and other actively used facilities, the standards for archer participation will be higher. Green Fire builds on managed archery on private properties pioneered locally by Belvoir Bowhunters and Suburban Whitetail Management of Northern Virginia. Managing the effort for the long term will necessitate more monitoring effort than other approaches and will depend on continuing involvement of landowners.
Trends in Harvest Methods
The following figure illustrates the proportions of annual deer harvests in Fairfax County from archery, shotgun, rifle and miscellaneous (generally pistols or muzzle loaders) for the period from 1994 through 2012. Due to weapon restrictions, archery has been the most used weapon over the entire period and is becoming more predominant as the County park program expands and more archers are hunting across the County on private as well as public lands.