How much does it cost to have SWM manage the deer problem on my property?

Nothing. Our service is provided free of charge to the property owner. We are incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our administrative costs are primarily funded through membership fees, occasional fundraising events, and donations from our clients and others interested in helping manage deer populations in suburban Virginia.

Do I put myself at any liability risk by using your service?

No. SWM carries liability insurance that protects both the organization and the property owner. Also, the Property Owner Agreement signed by SWM and each client includes a “hold harmless” clause which indemnifies the property owner. Lastly, there have been no insurance claims or accidents since our organization began in 1997.

Is my property too small to use your services?

Other than the restrictions place by the county, there are no hard and fast rules and we evaluate each property on a case-by-case basis. Our field staff has worked with properties smaller than two acres. However, dealing with smaller tracts is much easier when several adjoining property owners are experiencing deer damage and several – or all – decide to seek our services simultaneously. These properties can then be managed as a single, larger unit. We find this to be the best approach for smaller tracts. Home Owners Associations often have community property which may be safely and discretely utilized for deer management.

Do I need to wait until deer damage my property before SWM can help me?

No. We can begin to help manage your property before you experience damage. Unfortunately, most client requests come after damage is evident and by then it is usually extensive.

How long will it take for you to solve my deer problem?

We can make a difference almost immediately, but it will take longer to solve the problem completely. Just two deer living without predators can produce a herd of up to 35 deer in just seven years. How quickly we can restore balance to your particular property depends largely on the surrounding properties. When a number of nearby properties are under management, the balance can be restored much more quickly.

What are the qualifications of your members?

SWM deploys experienced bowhunters who have undergone a rigorous approval and qualification process. When it comes to suburban deer management, we set the standard for safety, discretion and effectiveness.

All of our bowhunters must:

  • Have extensive experience bowhunting in a suburban environment
  • Be certified by the National Bowhunter Education Foundation
  • Pass a state-conducted background investigation
  • Demonstrate the highest ethics, safety and professionalism as a bowhunter
  • Complete a thorough interview with the Corporation’s Board of Directors
  • Pass a difficult annual shooting qualification and proficiency test
  • Complete a property orientation with the landowner or other assigned bowhunter to ensure neighborhood nuances are understood

Our bowhunters adhere to all applicable state and local hunting regulations in addition to strict safety rules and regulations created by SWM to meet the unique circumstances of suburban and non-traditional areas.

How long have you been operating in Virginia?

SWM began actively assisting property owners to reduce the Whitetail deer population in suburban areas over 19 years ago. Since that time, we have grown to 568 active management properties and 164 active members and those numbers increase every month. As a corporation we have reduced the Whitetail population by almost 6,000 deer with a recovery rate of 93.3% since inception. Our recover rate in 2014 was 96.3% and in 2015 it was over 95%.

Is bowhunting really safe?

Absolutely! SWM has not had a single incident resulting in harm to people or pets in our 19 years (and counting) of operations. In fact, the chances of a hunter being injured, or causing injury to someone else is many times higher when driving a vehicle to or from your property.

In accordance with strict SWM guidelines, bowhunting is done from treestands, typically elevated to a height of 12 to 20 feet. Shooting at this severe downward angle allows the ground to act as a natural backstop effectively eliminating the possibility of stray arrows. In addition, SWM members are strictly limited to shots within 20 yards. At that very short distance there is absolutely no possibility of misidentifying a deer.

What is done with the deer taken from my property?

Approximately 75% of the deer meat is either donated to Hunters for the Hungry or other charities. The remaining 25% is kept for personal use. You can rest assured that the deer taken by our hunters is not wasted. In fact, if we find any of our hunters are wasting deer, they will be immediately removed from our membership.

Do deer play a role in the transmission of Lyme disease?

Yes. However, it is the ticks that live on the bodies of Whitetail Deer (and other mammals) that actually carry the disease Borrelia Burgdorferi (commonly known as Lyme disease). Whitetail Deer are considered the primary host of adult black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) and may transport ticks into suburban areas where people and pets could be put at risk. The more deer, the more ticks are able to reproduce. The more ticks, the higher the likelihood that people, pets and rodents will get bitten by ticks infected with Lyme disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, there were 976 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Virginia in 2014.

Is excessive deer browsing negatively affecting Virginia’s ecosystem?

Yes. Deer feed primarily on the tender shoots and buds of young trees and plants. Overabundant deer populations negatively impact the ecosystem by denuding the forest thus preventing the forest from naturally regenerating. Many areas in Fairfax County show heavy to severe browse levels and have little or no native vegetation growing below six feet. Very few native species survive in these areas and invasive species move in to take their place.

Severe damage to the forest understory can have a long-term negative effect on the native plant communities and the wildlife species that depend on them. This has caused the loss of habitat for songbirds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and many native shrubs and trees. As forests become further degraded and food resources are depleted deer may also suffer malnourishment and starvation.

What happened to the natural predators of Whitetail Deer?

Most natural predators of Whitetail Deer (large carnivores like wolves, mountain lions, and coyote) have all but disappeared. Whitetail Deer thrive in the suburbs where their most dangerous predator is your Honda, Ford, or Toyota.

Are there non-lethal methods to control deer?

Yes, but they are largely ineffective. According to a White Paper prepared by the Virginia Bureau of Wildlife Resources, “non-lethal methods are limited in applicability, prohibitively expensive, logistically impractical, and technically infeasible.”

Is the City of Fairfax experimenting with sterilizing Whitetail Deer?

Yes. The City of Fairfax is currently conducting Virginia’s first experiment with sterilizing deer. The program costs about $1,000 per deer sterilized with an additional cost of $436 per deer in police overtime. At last count, Fairfax had tranquilized and spayed 18 deer (at a cost of $25,848). With deer densities in Virginia’s parks and many sites in Fairfax County estimated to be between 40 and 100 deer per square mile sterilization is prohibitively expensive.

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