Arlington considers using professional sharpshooters to manage deer population

Professional sharpshooters could be heading to Arlington as part of a plan to manage the county’s deer population.

"I know what we’re recommending is going to be controversial," County Manager Mark Schwartz said at a public meeting last week, noting that it’s necessary because "Arlington’s deer population exceeds our forests’ ecological carrying capacity, or the point at which damage to normally renewable plant resources is permanent."

The recommendation to use sharpshooters – as well as other approaches like fencing and repellant – comes after more than a year of debate on the topic, as well as a report from project consultant White Buffalo Inc. 

Officials also said that bringing in professional sharpshooters is a technique that’s been used successfully throughout the region before.

At least 290 deer are in the county, according to a previous deer drone survey conducted in 2021. 

A group of deer are standing on a country lane on a January day in the light of the low winter sun and just before dusk. The animals look alarmed at a vehicle approaching them. Photo: Wolfram Steinberg/dpa Photo: Wolfram Steinberg/dpa (Photo by Wolfr

The sharpshooters would remove between 100 and 125 of the deer, officials said last week.

"I wouldn’t be supporting this recommendation unless the science supported this approach," Schwartz said.

The county considered a variety of management options, including professional sharpshooting, surgical sterilization of the deer, controlled public archery, fencing, and repellants.

Sam Wolbert, the president and CEO of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, is among those who are opposed to the sharpshooter recommendation.

"We believe professional sharpshooting at the level the county has recommended is excessive for the problem at hand," he told Fox 5 Wednesday.

There is still an opportunity for the public to provide feedback, with a final vote on the topic likely being months away.

More information about the project can be found here.