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Too Much Wildlife in Braddock?

Spring Town Meeting addresses wildlife, pet concerns in the Braddock District.

June Leeuwrik came to the Braddock District Spring Town Meeting, May 31, to ask county officials what to do about the foxes living on her property, the dead raccoon smelling up her basement and the large flies that have invaded her home.

A Kings Park resident, Leeuwrik said she doesn’t know what to do anymore, since the county had told her to call a private pest control company, and when she did, the company she called told her it was the county’s responsibility.

“I need some help,” said Leeuwrik.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide that help, said Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock). About 100 of the district’s more than 100,000 residents packed the Kings Park Library meeting room, 9000 Burke Lake Road, to hear the presentation.

“We get a lot of calls about animal issues, and a lot of people are fearful,” said Bulova.

The biannual town meetings are open to the public and usually focus on a specific topic. The animal issues meeting included officials from the Fairfax County Police and Animal Shelter, and a representative from the American Red Cross’ Pets Preparedness Program to educate people on wildlife issues.

“We try to give information on how you can peacefully live with wildlife,” said Michael Lucas, chief animal officer with the county’s animal services division. “Enjoy wildlife, but respect wildlife too.”

Annandale resident Dennis Savage said the meetings are too infrequent and shouldn’t focus on such arbitrary topics. While he said wildlife issues are certainly important, he said the district had other needs to worry about.

“The meeting was completely useless, unless you were in need of an eighth grade biology class,” said Savage. “Twice a year is not enough. This county changes by the day.”

The eighth grade class Savage referred to was the PowerPoint presentation about fox, raccoons, feral cats, deer, bats and animal diseases. Lucas gave the first part of the slideshow, which began with a breakdown of services provided by the county's animal division. He then presented bullet points of information on animal habitats, eating habits and behaviors, to illustrate ways to handle encounters with such animals. Lucas also told residents about instances where the county will and will not intervene with animals.

“We generally don’t go into non-living space,” said Lucas, adding that county officials will not respond to animal problems “anywhere outside or in the general living space of the home.”

THE COUNTY WILL respond to calls about sick or injured animals, but concerns involving healthy looking animals should be directed to the Volunteer Wildlife Rescue League, said Lucas. When dead animals are on private property, Lucas said the county will “try to assist” if fresh blood or saliva is around a dead animal. Without fresh blood or saliva, he said there is not a serious health risk involved with carefully disposing of dead animals.

Russell Klosk, the Braddock representative to the county’s Animal Shelter Advisory Board, followed the police animal services presentation with information about the county animal shelter. He said the shelter always has animals ready for adoption, and that spaying and neutering animals is required when adopting. He urged all pet owners to spay or neuter their pets because of the huge pet population in the county. The shelter estimates there to be about half as many dogs and cats in the county as there are people.

“As delightful as they are, there are so many of them in the community,” said Karen Diviney, director of the county animal shelter.

“I try to be a voice for them,” said Klosk. “Most of the people who work in the Animal Control Division are animal lovers, or else they would have chosen a different line of work.”

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS for pets was another meeting topic. Bulova said an entire program could be taken up addressing the issue, based on what happened to pets and pet owners after Hurricane Katrina. Since the Washington metropolitan area is a likely target of another terrorist attack, said Melissa Klein, of the American Red Cross Pets Preparedness Program, residents need to be proactive about preparing for all kinds of disasters.

“The odds are the worst will actually come for some of us,” said Klein. “Pets need to be included in family preparedness.”

A short question and answer session was allotted at the end of the meeting. Regina Turner said she was concerned about rabies with relation to the county’s increasing fox population. Lucas told Turner it’s the health department’s decision to test animals for rabies, based on whether the animal had been exposed to a pet or a human. He did not answer her question as to what the county was doing to combat rabies.

“They’re not looking at it as a potential public health problem,” said Turner.

John Moser said the county needs to address the feral cat problem, because he’s sick of finding cat feces in his yard. According to Lucas, the county has no formal program to trap or control feral cats, so the animals are essentially allowed to run free.

“When they present a public health problem, we have trapped them out,” said Lucas.

Savage came to the meeting to tie in what he said is the bigger issue: overdevelopment.

“The whole problem is they’re giving wildlife no place else to live other than people’s yards,” said Savage. “They’re bowing to the developers.”