A visit to one of our parks, or even your own backyard, will provide examples of the diverse wildlife population in our county. We have frogs and salamanders, deer and bears, red fox and vultures, among many other species.
— Fairfax County Parks (@fairfaxparks) January 11, 2017
And we have a wildlife management specialist to help protect and manage this diverse wildlife population. Studying and taking care of wildlife has been a lifelong passion for Katherine Edwards, who holds this position in the Police Department’s Animal Services Division.
“I knew at a very young age that I wanted to study animals, ” said the Chantilly native. “I was particularly fascinated by frogs, toads, salamanders and lizards – much to my mom’s chagrin – but also loved watching all of the deer, rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels that would visit our yard.”
Edwards went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Virginia, as well as her master’s degree in wildlife science and doctorate in forest resources from Mississippi State University.
While any animal lover may be a little jealous of Edwards’ opportunities to be outside with wildlife, a lot of her responsibilities include being indoors, working with residents, county officials and other government agencies.
Some of her work includes:
- Implementing policies and programs to meet the county’s wildlife conservation and management goals including the Deer Management and Canada Geese Management programs.
- Working with county, state and federal agencies as well as organizations and private landholders on wildlife management challenges. These can include beaver impacts on stormwater management properties, as well as public and wildlife health concerns including rabies, West Nile, Lyme disease.
- Responding to inquiries, questions and concerns including wildlife species identification, animal behavior and nuisance wildlife on properties.
- Providing education, outreach and technical assistance to mitigate urban wildlife conflicts.
- Conducting public meetings and attending special events to discuss wildlife management.
- Collaborating with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries on wildlife laws and regulations, deer management, neighborhood conflicts with furbearers (coyote, fox and raccoons), and black bear activity in the county.
- Conducting wildlife surveys and research studies, gathering field data, performing statistical analysis and preparing technical reports, presentations and management plans.
In looking toward the future for wildlife in the county, Edwards would like to get more of our two-legged residents involved in supporting wildlife management. A few of her goals are:
- Recruiting volunteers to assist in wildlife surveys and habitat conservation in their neighborhoods.
- Expanding countywide education and outreach on wildlife-related topics to engage the public.
- Strengthening collaboration with local wildlife and environmental groups to better achieve common goals.
We have a growing coyote population in our county and provide benefits, despite being often misunderstood. Watch this video to learn more:
Watch this video about the county’s Deer Management program to minimize overpopulation: