Issue of Week: Management in Metropolitan Areas


The White-tailed deer is a highly valued North American species. Due to successful conservation efforts, white-tailed deer are abundant in most states and provinces.  Unfortunately, many deer populations are now too high, causing problems for farmers, homeowners, foresters, automobile drivers and other wildlife species. If not properly managed, deer numbers can increase dramatically in a short period of time. To avoid issues with overpopulation, managers seek to provide balance between the deer populations, their environment, human land uses and recreational interests.

There are a number of different ways states manage their white-tailed deer population. Some of these methods include capture and relocation, fertility control, and predator introduction. However, regulated hunting remains the most practical means of controlling free ranging deer.

High density jurisdictions, such as Fairfax County in Virginia, find archery to be a safe and effective management tool to control white-tailed deer populations on public and private lands. With strict firearm restrictions in Fairfax County, qualified bow hunters are able to efficiently and discreetly hunt deer that normally are protected by overlapping firearm safety zones. It was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2000 as a safe and efficient method of deer population control.

The Fairfax County Deer Management Archery Program opened Saturday, September 6 and continues through Saturday, February 21, 2015. Under the oversight of the Fairfax County Police Department in collaboration with the Fairfax County Park Authority and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, the archery program is conducted in parks and other locations in Fairfax County.


In a 2014 report, the total number of deer removed in Fairfax County exceeded 1,000, with 848 killed by bow and arrow. Nearly 700 citizens participated in the urban archery program. The archery program, which began in 2010, annually reduces deer in Fairfax County.  Hunting helps curtail the thousands of deer-vehicle collisions that occur in Fairfax County each year, as well as the spread of diseases such as Lyme disease.

Archery has a proven track record of safety and is the preferred deer management technique in Fairfax County. Since Virginia began tracking hunting injuries in 1959, no injuries related to archery have been reported by bystanders anywhere in the Commonwealth.

Deer are a renewable natural resource that needs to be managed sustainably and effectively.  SCI Foundation continues to supports science-based management of wildlife coupled with the sustainable use of our natural resources. Programs such as the Fairfax county archery program demonstrate the effectiveness of hunting as a management tool. There are many developed metropolitan areas that can benefit from a special archery season to control deer populations and states should be encouraged to develop their own archery management programs.

Twice a week, SCI Foundation informs readers about conservation initiatives happening worldwide and updates them on SCI Foundation’s news, projects and events. Tuesdays are dedicated to an Issue of the Week and Thursday’s Weekly Updates will provide an inside look into research and our other science-based conservation efforts. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more SCI Foundation news. 

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