Fairfax City needed a solution to address landowner concerns about deer conflicts. They had considered archery hunting, but for a variety of reasons, the City Council voted against it. Local animal advocates stepped in and arranged a meeting with White Buffalo Inc. and the city administration. After much discussion, the City Council voted to permit our team at White Buffalo Inc. to conduct sterilization research in the City of Fairfax, VA. We felt like it was an ideal project, the deer densities weren't too high, and it was a good model for stabilizing an existing herd.
After receiving positive feedback from the Mayor, Scott Silverthorne, regarding our proposed sterilization effort we began organizing partners to fill in all the support roles. First, we finalized arrangements to integrate a graduate student from the University of Georgia, Charles Evans.
The next critical step was working with the local Chief of Police, Rick Rappoport, who was exceptionally supportive on all levels including allowing us access to the Sally port for the surgeries and assigning officers to escort the darting team around the City. The local program supporters, Humane Deer Management and Pets Limited, facilitated fundraising and helped organize volunteers for transporting and handling deer. Wildlife Rescue Inc., based in Maryland, also was instrumental in providing financial support, equipment, supplies, and staff. We used our veterinarian, Dr. Steve Timm to train local veterinarians. We then were very fortunate to connect with a local veterinarian, Jeff Newman from Caring Hands Animal Hospital, who played multiple critical roles and was exceptionally generous with his time, equipment, and staff. Finally, we received a Scientific Collection Permit from Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to carry out the project.
We started the project in late-January 2014 and worked six nights. All deer were engaged with remote immobilization equipment (darting) from a vehicle on public property. Virginia law prohibited shining lights on private property without prior permission which greatly diminished our ability to search for deer in neighborhoods. We also could not use bait, a standard element in deer capture protocols, resulting in reduced efficiency and our ability to attract deer to the public lands where we had access. We captured 18 females, about 40% of the local population based on camera surveys. The spotlighting law was changed and we received permission to use bait for capture efforts in Year 2. The second year, with the use of bait and spotlighting, we capture an additional 18 females with much higher efficiency bringing the percentage captured to ~85%. At the conclusion of Year 3 (December 2015) we had ~93% of the females tagged and observed a ~20% decline from Year 2 to Year 3.
[Photo Credits: James Berglie/For The HSUS, Enid Feinberg/For Wildlife Rescue, Inc. at Phoenix, MD Surgical Sterilization Project and Paul Curtis at Cayuga, NY Project]
As the District and its highly populated suburbs grapple with controlling their deer populations, Fairfax City is planning a new approach: Tranquilize and capture all the female deer in the city, take them to a surgical table and remove their ovaries to keep them from reproducing. If the city receives clearance from the state’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, officials said, it will be the first jurisdiction in Virginia to try the surgical sterilization approach.
Officials in the City of Fairfax have signed off on a non-lethal approach to managing the city’s deer population. The city will support a grant-funded research program that uses surgical sterilization of female deer as a mechanism for controlling deer population.
Video: Discussion of a grant proposal to participate in a Non-lethal Deer Management Program, by Dr. Anthony DeNicola, President of White Buffalo, Inc.