Deer Information and Management
Did you know that Virginia had the eighth highest total number of deer-vehicle collisions in the United States over the 2007-08 time period?
According to Drive Smart Virginia, an estimated 54,000 drivers have collided with deer. These issues are not isolated to rural areas of the state; Fairfax County has a very active deer population, and particularly at this time of year, police urge motorists to drive cautiously.
Deer are especially active from pre-dawn to mid-morning and from dusk to early evening – right about the time when many Fairfax County residents are going to and from work or school. So, remember the following safety tips:
Be aware of posted “Deer Crossing” signs. They are placed in areas
known for high deer traffic.
Do not rely on car-mounted deer whistles; they may not work.
Drivers should use their high-beams when there is no on-coming traffic
for a better view of the edge of adjacent woods and fields.
- Do not swerve to miss a deer. This could cause you to lose control of your vehicle, strike a tree or another vehicle or to overturn. Those types of accidents result in far more fatalities than auto-deer crashes.
If you cannot avoid hitting a deer:
Slow down and grasp the steering wheel firmly with both hands.
Take your foot off the brake at the time of impact so the front end of
your vehicle will lift up and enable the deer to go under the car,
rather than over it – reducing the danger of it crashing through the
windshield or windows.
- If the animal is injured or killed, report the collision through the county’s non-emergency line at 703-691-2131.
While the presence of deer in Fairfax has been a delight for some, other residents express concern over damage to cars, gardens, and yards caused by deer.
What are some of the problems caused by deer?
- Road safety: An average of 4,000 to 5,000 deer-vehicle collisions in the county each year.
- Wildlife habitat destruction: Over-abundance of deer results in depleted food and natural habitat for birds, amphibians and micro-organisms that are necessary to sustain County wildlife and the natural environment.
- Forest regeneration: Too many deer result in a lack of understory plant life. Plants most vulnerable include young oaks, maples and poplar trees.
- Ornamental plant damage: Deer diet includes many types of non-native vegetation found in parks and neighborhoods, such as azaleas, hostas and daylilies. The cost of this damage is of great concern to residents and taxpayers.
- Deer health: Too many deer living too close together reduces the overall health of the county’s deer population. Deer compete with each other for food and space.
- Human health: Too many deer may increase human risk of exposure to ticks infected with Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. Deer may transport these ticks across the county.
- Devaluation of the deer as a species: Although deer are a valued wildlife species here, an overabundance may cause some to view them as “pests."
What current deer management activities are underway?
- County officials gather data about damages caused by deer from residents
- Use of roadside reflectors tried, but were not effective in reducing deer-vehicle collisions
- County wildlife experts conduct seminars to help the public better understand deer and local management issues surrounding them.
What can residents and community groups do to help?
- It is illegal to feed deer from Sept. 1 through the first Saturday in January
- Report evidence of deer damage in neighborhoods and parks
- Consider deer-proofing your property
- Sponsor resident education activities
- Participate in deer management surveys
- Discourage others from feeding deer
Are there any plants and shrubs that may deter deer from grazing in my yard?
- Common boxwoods
- Colorado Blue Spruce
- Red Osier Dogwoods
- Scots Pine
- Common lilac
- Ornamental grasses
- Tarragon and wormwood
- Virginia bluebells
- Lily of the valley