Deer will once again be fair game at several organized hunts planned for parks in Fairfax County in coming weeks, but some county supervisors yesterday criticized plans to cut costs of the events by having fewer police officers on patrol.
County officials announced yesterday that at two regional parks--Bull Run and Upper Potomac--there will be four managed hunts for the public in which participants will be allowed to kill two deer apiece. Also starting next month, police sharpshooters will kill deer at night using high-powered rifles in four regional parks and three county parks.
The program will be the county's second attempt to solve problems posed by a burgeoning deer population by organizing deer hunts in public parks.
Previous managed hunts and sharpshooting efforts were criticized for being ineffective and costly. Events over the past two years netted fewer than 200 deer and cost about $70,000, principally because police officers were used to cordon off the parks for the managed hunts.
County officials said fewer police officers will be used this season and predicted that hunts will cost $1,000 apiece.
The cost-cutting plans drew immediate criticism yesterday from some members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) said he will move to prohibit the hunt at Bull Run Regional Park until he is assured that the park can be secured while hunters are shooting.
"Until I see an adequate security plan, there won't be a managed hunt. Not in my district, I guarantee you that," said Frey, who has been critical of the plan to hunt deer. "It sounds to me like saying we're going to get by on the cheap."
Hunt supporters also expressed concern. Supervisor Gerald E. Connolly (D-Providence) said his support is based on adequate security, which he doubted could be achieved for $1,000. Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn (R-Dranesville) was also skeptical. "They are going to have to do enough to make them safe," Mendelsohn said.
Earl Hodnett, Fairfax's wildlife biologist who is planning the hunts, said the supervisors have no need to worry. He said the hunts will be in isolated parks with few access points, requiring fewer people to monitor the grounds.
"I would never compromise safety," Hodnett said. "We're not leaving any spots uncovered."
The growing numbers of deer in Fairfax are a serious problem, causing traffic accidents and stripping parks of foliage, he said.
This year's managed hunts at Bull Run Regional Park are scheduled for Dec. 14 and Jan. 11.
The two hunts at Upper Potomac Regional Park are scheduled for Dec. 16 and Jan. 13.
Hunters will be chosen by lottery and must be 18 years old and have a Virginia hunting license and a big game license. Each will have to pass a marksmanship test to qualify for the hunt.
Animal rights activist Michael Markarian said the hunts are ineffective and cruel.
"It's not helping anyone or solving Fairfax's problem," Markarian said. "It's cruelty for the sake of cruelty."
CAPTION: Animal rights activist Michael Markarian calls the deer hunts ineffective and cruel. "It's cruelty for the sake of cruelty," he said.