Wednesday, September 02, 2009

VIRGINIA NEWS: Municipal Bow Hunt Debated

Tired of the damage and disease associated with an exploding white-tailed deer population, a Leesburg neighborhood will begin allowing bow hunting of deer when hunting season begins this month.

Homeowners in Beacon Hill, a sprawling neighborhood of more than 200 houses, have long complained of deer trampling manicured lawns, eating flowers and ruining community landscaping. They also have expressed concern about the spread of deer ticks that carry Lyme disease.

The board of directors of the Beacon Hill homeowners association voted Monday to permit bow hunting of deer in four wooded common areas during the legal hunting season, from Sept. 5 to Nov. 13.

But a neighboring equestrian center, which shares a trail and common space with Beacon Hill, has expressed concerns about safety. The owners and clients of Clairvaux at Beacon Hill said they fear that horses could be mistaken for deer.

"I envision little girls on little ponies getting shot at," said Terri Young, the owner of Clairvaux. "Or what happens if a hunter misses and there is a deer running around with [an arrow] stuck in it to horrify the kids?"

Beacon Hill is one of a number of Washington area communities that permit bow hunting to control the growing deer population. Montgomery County, for instance, last year relaxed its rules on bow and shotgun hunting.

Beacon Hill is negotiating with Suburban Whitetail Management of Northern Virginia, professional bow hunters who have worked for other communities and private landowners, said Pia Trigiani, the association's attorney. The company's hunters would shoot deer from elevated tree stands, she said.

The tree stands would be at least 150 feet away from any private property not participating in the program and 30 yards from the shared equestrian trail. Hunting would be limited to the four areas, where deer tend to gather, Trigiani said.

In looking at the four areas, the board has considered safety, the proximity to other lots and "where the thinning would be most productive," she said.

Trigiani noted that the association held a community-wide meeting in March at which professional bow hunters briefed residents. Since then, she said, the board has listened to supporters and opponents of bow hunting and has carefully considered the issue.

"This is a last resort for the association," Trigiani said. "It's a measured response. It's not a knee-jerk reaction."

The vast majority of Beacon Hill homeowners support bow hunting of deer. But residents who oppose it said the community could be sued if a hunter accidentally hits a person or a horse.

"We're just concerned about the liability . . . and the safety of the kids, the horses and anybody else," said Lisa Thompson, a Beacon Hill homeowner and mother of two teenage girls who ride horses that are boarded at the equestrian center.

Young, the owner of the equestrian center, said she is concerned about the effect bow hunting will have on her business. "I don't know what our options are at that point," she said. "I have already spoken to our attorney about it."

Trigiani said the board weighed the risks associated with bow hunting on residential land and spoke with three Fairfax County homeowners associations that permit bow hunting.

"They have to balance all of the sides of the issue and come up with the best decisions," Trigiani said. "I think this board has done that, and I think it will stand judicial scrutiny."

Beacon Hill homeowner Stephen Cloud, who supports bow hunting of deer, said that he has tried spraying his flowers and plants with deer-repellant chemicals but that the effectiveness doesn't last.

"I don't plant many flowers anymore because [the deer] eat them all," he said.

Source: Washington Post

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