Deer boom menaces county

Thanks to a bumper acorn crop in the fall of 2000 and a mild winter in 2001, the area’s deer population has exploded and herds are overrunning the county’s dwindling forests.

Joseph Campbell, 13, recently saw a small herd of deer run through his front yard in Dale City.

“They went across the street, jumped a couple of fences and went back in the woods,” said Joseph, who hunts with his father, Lee Campbell.

Joseph said that he had never seen deer in his neighborhood before. His father said that development is shrinking deer habitat and driving them into the suburbs.

Campbell, who has hunted in the area since Minnieville Road snaked through farmland, said that people will likely see more deer as the animals migrate to any available forest that remains standing.

“These deer are going to go into every little patch of woods they can find. The area is just overpopulated.”

Leesylvania State Park Manager Jim Klakowicz said that park officials have noticed an increase in the park’s deer population for some time and have organized a managed hunt for the first time in the park’s history.

“We’ve been monitoring our herd size for the last four to five years. We’re estimating that we have twice the population we should have for 500 acres,” Klakowicz said. “We figure we have 100 to 120 deer and we need to reduce that to about 50 or 60.”

Klakowicz said that deer overpopulation can be detrimental to the herds, humans, the forest and other animals.

The harm to humans includes the possible spread of Lyme disease, auto accidents and property damage.

In the forest, Klakowicz said, too many deer can consume so much vegetation that the forest is unable to support other animals.

If deer herds become too large, parasite infestation increases and the deer tend to get sick and malnourished, Klakowicz said.

“The main thing we’re trying to do is maintain the health of the herd — but also minimize the impact to humans and protect the forest,” Klakowicz said.

State Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said that there are no official statistics available to compare the current numbers of deer and auto collisions with previous years, but it seems that the numbers are above average.

“It’s all anecdotal, but it seems like there have been more accidents involving deer recently,” Caldwell said.

People should try and stay alert, she advised.

Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063.

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