Deer Adapting to Suburban Sprawl

This is a great article written by Liza Mundy of the Washington Post Magazine.  It seems to cover most of the bases from a high level, but it should provide some non-hunters a starting point on educating them about deer. Meaning, they are not just the cute brown, big eared, shiny nose and big doe eyed critter.

Where I live in Loudoun County, VA hunters harvested 6,266 deer this past season.  The incidence of Lyme disease in Loudoun County is about 20 times greater than that of the Virginia average.

 VA Deerk Kill Graph

Deer are becoming almost as common in the suburbs as squirrels and rabbits. How do deer understand human activity, navigate traffic, and reproduce in populated areas? Are they becoming, in some fundamental way, a different animal than deer living in the wild?

Before the 1960s, there were no recorded observations of deer in Rock Creek Park, D.C. There were dozen in the 1970s. Now, deer sightings are so routine, officials don’t write deer up any more.”

In 2000, park officials conducted their first deer census and counted about 50 per square mile. Recently, the number has fluctuated between 60 and 80 per square mile, or about 250 in the entire park.

This increase in population growth is not local to the Metro area. In the early 20th century, deer numbers had dwindled to perhaps less than half a million; now, there may be as many as 29 million.

While the experts can suggest ways for homeowners to discourage deer, at least temporarily, they say the real solution lies in reducing their numbers. This is to say, hunting them.

The only opponents these days are the deer, who are getting wise to these operations.


Many neighborhoods call for a more surgical strike — and for hunters willing to forgo the big woods and cater to the sensibilities of suburbanites who want the deer gone but are uncomfortable with the messy reality of killing them.

Eric Huppert is the president of an organization of bowhunters with the delightfully corporate-sounding name Suburban Whitetail Management of Northern Virginia. In areas where bowhunting is legal, his operation allows homeowners to outsource their deer problem.

Suburban White Tail Management imposes stringent restrictions on its 100-odd members. For safety, they are not allowed to shoot a deer more than 20 yards away, though they must show their ability to hit a six-inch target from 30 yards. “I tell people that I just want to know that you can do it,” says Huppert. He has also set strict conduct rules designed to minimize the hunters’ presence. “We want you to get in and out without getting noticed,” he tells his bowmen. “Come in and go out in civilian clothes. We don’t allow camouflage clothing in public view. We don’t allow deer [carcasses visible] in the back. All your hunting equipment is out of sight. It’s all very — covert, I guess.”

“We’re trying to give hunting a good image,” explains Steve Barry, the organization’s Loudoun County coordinator.

“People think that hunting deer is so easy, and it’s really not,” says Eric Huppert. “You’re not dealing with a dumb animal.”

Read the full article here.

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  1. I live adjacent to Loudoun and my father and I have hunted the same property in the county for over 20 years. It is amazing how the numbers of deer have increased in the past decade. Lyme disease, auto accidents, and deer damage to landscaping are the biggest problems I see. Its good that some of these homeowners and homeowners associations are starting to come around and let responsible hunters help manage the population.

    • Tom,
      Thanks for posting and great to see that a local has crossed my site! I, like you agree that I am pleased to see some HOAs starting to see that there is a need to hunt deer and a feasible way of performing this! Now, it the poswers-at-be would only offer the NBEF classes more often and closer to Loudoun!