Deer population in Isle of Wight, Surry to be decreased

Published 1:21 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2016

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight and Surry county homeowners and farmers frustrated by shrub-and-crop eating deer may be happy to learn that Virginia has targeted the two counties for population reduction over the next 10 years.

The news may also be welcome for hunters, as the strategy includes changing the parameters of the local hunting season.

“I always want a longer deer season,” said Griffin Williams, who hunts with the Isle of Wight Hunt Club.

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Ebor Ross, who lives in Jericho Estates in Smithfield, said the herd up there has become so accustomed to people that not only do they regularly dine on his garden and shrubs, but also allowed the family cat to walk under their legs.

“Deer are so smart, they know where the safe areas are … they didn’t care what she (the cat Princess, now deceased) did,” he said.

Over in the Morgart’s Beach area, there are two herds of more than 20 deer that roam the area, said Morgart’s Beach resident Kathy Mountjoy.

“They eat everything,” she said, resignedly.   {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Isle of Wight and Surry counties, as well as the city of Norfolk, are at the southern end of a corridor slated for deer reduction, and that stretches northwest up the Peninsula and out to Cumberland County.

Plans for reducing the herd is an update from the 2015-2024 Virginia Deer Management Plan, which previously called for stabilizing the population.

A change is made when the deer population reaches its “cultural carrying capacity,” that is, how many deer people are comfortable with, said Nelson Lafon, deer project leader with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Ecosystem impacts are also taken into consideration, he said.

The population hit that threshold in Isle of Wight and Surry counties, Lafon said.

On the flip side, the deer population has severely declined in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, so those areas are now targeted for stabilization, Lafon said.

Deer populations are related to human population and development, Lafon said.

However, it’s unlikely that development caused the Virginia Beach and Chesapeake deer herds to pick up and move up to Isle of Wight and Surry, he said.

Deer tend to be “homebodies” and the only ones who branch out are two-year old males, Lafon said.

Those males may move a couple of miles away, but not further than that, he said.

Female deer, on the other hand, remain within the same 200-300 acres their entire lives, Lafon said.

Changes to the deer-hunting season are the main way the state implements a reduction strategy — particularly by managing the number of days does can be killed, Lafon said.

The goal is to balance the amount between those who want more deer and those who want less, and the plan is continuously reevaluated, he said.

The town of Smithfield is also part of the DGIF’s urban archery program.  The program allows the shooting of deer by arrows during specific times of the year for localities in the program, and Smithfield has a number of restrictions which can be viewed on the DGIF website.

Ross said he’s tried urban archery at the edge of his neighborhood, where it’s allowed in Smithfield.

Unfortunately, the deer seem to know where it’s safe and where it’s not and avoid the areas where he can hunt, Ross said.

So he’s reverted to fences, sprays and an odd remedy — human hair in a stocking.

The scent is supposed to scare the deer, but it must be updated every few days or it loses its punch, he said.

Meanwhile, hunters killed 2,348 deer in Isle of Wight County, a number that has remained fairly stable over the past 10 years.

In Surry County, 2,287 deer were killed last year.

Surry hunters bagged the most antlered males at 46 percent of the entire kill. In Isle of Wight, 37 percent of the total killed were antlered males.

Of the total kill, nearly 52 percent were females in Isle of Wight County and 45 percent were females in Surry.

One local hunter was so enthusiastic about shooting deer that he, or she, erected a rogue deer stand on one landowner’s property without permission.

The Isle of Wight County landowner was recently surprised to find a ladder, stand and even a seat erected on a tree on her two-acre property.

“The seat even has a cushion,” the landowner said.

Williams said that despite the growing deer population, numbers were down for the Isle of Wight Hunt Club this year.

But that can be for any number of reasons, such as some older hunters only going for the “big buck,” he said.

As for himself, Williams hunts for the meat, so more doe days are O.K. with him. Plus he has enjoyed introducing the sport to his son and nephew, as it was passed down to him from his father and grandfather.  {/mprestriction}