Health Department Adapts to Omicron Surge — With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, the Fairfax County Health Department is changing its contact-tracing process to focus staff and resources on “higher-risk scenarios,” such as congregate settings, schools and childcare facilities, and outbreaks. Other individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be notified by text message. [FCHD]
Robb Family Comments on McLean House Fire — Children of former Virginia governor Chuck Robb and his wife, Lynda Johnson Robb, confirmed that their parents had no life-threatening injuries after a fire destroyed the McLean mansion where they have lived for nearly 50 years. The Robb family thanked the firefighters and medical professionals who responded to the incident. [Office of the Governor]
Rare Owl Spotted in Oakton — “Animal Protection Police officers in Fairfax County, Virginia, helped a rare owl get out of a tough spot last month. The Fairfax County Police Department posted about the rescue on its Facebook page Tuesday. APP officers were called to the Oakton area Nov. 17 for a report of an owl that had flown into a home under construction.” [WTOP]
Tysons Corner and Galleria Close Early Tomorrow — “Between Christmas Eve for late shoppers and post-Christmas shopping, the two malls in Tysons have adjusted hours on upcoming days. Santa photos will continue at malls through Christmas Eve. Malls and surrounding stores are generally closed on Christmas Day, Dec. 25.” [Patch]
McLean Holiday Lights Contest Voting Underway — McLean residents can now vote online for their favorite neighborhood holiday decorations as part of the Light Up McLean contest. The McLean Community Center will announce winners in three categories — best overall, most creative, and best holiday theme — on Jan. 3. [Old Firehouse Center/Twitter]
Tropical Storm Elsa Heads to Virginia — After leaving Florida behind, Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to bring heavy rain and strong winds along the East Coast from Georgia to New England through Friday. Forecasts show the storm passing to the east, but the D.C. area on I-95 could get some rain and breezy conditions tonight. [Capital Weather Gang]
Falls Church Developer Proposes More Senior Housing — “The Falls Church Gateway developer partnership getting underway with work on the 9-acre site of the former George Mason High School came to the F.C. City Council Monday with a request, granted a preliminary vote by a 7-0 margin, to expand the senior living building set for the site from 225,000 square feet to 260,000, including a height increase to 15 stories to accommodate up to 215 units.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Cause of Bird Deaths Still Unknown — The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources received more than 1,400 reports of sick or dying birds in Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County, between May 23 and June 30. No cause has been identified yet, but symptoms of the illness include eye swelling and neurological issues. [Vienna Police/Twitter]
Travel Ban Puts Falls Church Couple’s Wedding Plans at Risk — “The pandemic has prevented a couple from Falls Church, Virginia, from walking down the aisle, and now they say they’ll lose $30,000 if the U.S. travel ban on citizens from Britain and other European nations isn’t lifted soon.” [WTOP]
The 2020 Fairfax County Deer Management Archery Program officially kicks off this Saturday, Sept. 12. The program will run through Saturday, Feb. 20.
The initiative is in collaboration with the Fairfax County Park Authority and NOVA Parks under the oversight of the Fairfax County Police Department to enforce that the program is only conducted in parks and other approved locations.
The program was created in 2010 to reduce and stabilize the population of white-tailed deer in the county, according to the statement. An overabundance of deer can lead to a series of safety and health hazards including deer-vehicle collisions, the potential spread of disease and environmental damage.
Archery is a preferred method of deer management because of its compatible use in residential areas and community parks, according to the statement. Additionally, no bystanders have been injured by an archer hunting deer since Virginia began tracking hunting injuries.
The program requires all hunters to meet state hunter licensing, education and safety requirements and must pass qualifications to demonstrate skill and marksmanship. They also must have program identification and completion of training through the International Bow Hunter Education Program to participate. Hunters must also pass a background check.
Parks will remain open to the public during hunting season, with orange signs to designate where hunting is authorized. Hunting is permitted at assigned sites Monday through Saturday, from 30 minutes prior to sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset.
Photo via the Fairfax County Police Department
A recent stream restoration project in Tysons is supposed to help fix erosion but a few residents and environmental advocates in the area worry that it will be detrimental to local wildlife and foliage.
The Old Courthouse Spring Branch at Gosnell Road Stream Stream Restoration Project runs loosely along Route 7 and is currently under construction to restore roughly half a mile of the natural stream channel, replace old sewage lines and decommission an old stormwater pond, according to Fairfax County’s website.
In the months leading up to this project, several nearby residents and visitors to “Tysons Last Forest” have protested the project — not because they want to stop it, but because they want the wildlife and nature to be protected.
The area, which consists of more than 40 acres of open space, is home to birds, deer, owls, small mammals, foxes, hundred-year-old trees and even a bobcat or two, according to Fairfax County.
Local resident Jack Russell, who is a long-time visitor to the park, said he isn’t aware of either an ecological or environmental impact report for the project, which he said concerns him.
Tysons Reporter reached out to Shannon Bell and Charles Smith from the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services Department for comment but haven’t received a response yet.
Russell said he is already noticing the negative effects of the work done by crews, recounting how Fairfax County workers destroyed a fox’s den. “I watched the fox just walk around in shock,” he said.
Though the work on phase one began in November 2019, Russell and his wife retroactively organized a Facebook page and town hall in January to educate people on the project. The meeting attracted roughly 50 people from around the area, Russell said, noting that Fairfax County representatives attended the meeting, including a liaison from the office of the Hunter Mill District Supervisor.
During the January town hall, Russell was able to share his grievances with Bell and Smith.
“The people who are managing phase one and phase two of the Tysons Forest project couldn’t be nicer people and they’ve listened but they rolled in with bulldozers and backhoes and just clearcut 1,500 feet of old trees,” Russell said.
Fairfax County documentation already notes that ecosystems in the area are fragile. “The natural areas of the district are extremely fragmented, with significant portions of edge habitat and few large tracts remaining,” the report, which was published in 2011, said.
Ultimately, Russell said he and other local advocates have a few key demands.
Though they understand that stream restoration is important for the health of the area, he said they want to:
- minimize the loss of trees and habitat in the area
- delay work on the second phase until damage from the first phase is re-planted and healed
- create “animal-friendly zones” including native plant species and hollow logs for dens
- be a “shining” example nationally for how animal habitats can be enhanced
According to Fairfax County, the project will be completed in 2021.
Russell said he hopes the issue will receive more attention and that Fairfax County will reevaluate the environmental impact of its ongoing projects.
Photo courtesy Jack Russell
It’s the season for bear sightings in Virginia and the Vienna Police Department wants people in the Tysons area to stay safe.
“Virginia is black bear country — including the Vienna area,” the police department said in a press release today (June 6). “However, while bears are not a common encounter in our community, multiple sightings are reported each spring and summer as bears wander into residential areas searching for food.”
The police department shared a factsheet by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which says that Fairfax County has had black bear occupation occasionally, along with confirmed sightings.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has different tips for how to keep bears away from residential areas, what to do if you encounter a bear at home and how to keep them away while camping and hiking. The factsheet also addresses some common bear myths.
“Unprovoked bear attacks are very rare and have never been documented in Virginia,” according to the factsheet.
For anyone who comes into close contact with a bear, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recommends that they should back away slowly.
“Unless the animal is sick or injured or poses a threat to public safety, the Vienna Police Department does not take action to remove bears from a neighborhood,” according to the police department.
Instead, people should report bear to through the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline at (855) 571-9003, TTY 711.
Media Release – Be Bear Aware!!! Black bears and their cubs emerge from hibernation from March through May in Virginia and typically avoid humans, of whom they have a natural fear. In most cases would rather flee than encounter people. @TownofViennaVA @bearsmart @fairfaxcounty pic.twitter.com/JuniYMgpR7
— Vienna Police (@VPDVA) June 6, 2019
As spring comes around, there’s a better than usual chance that Fairfax County residents might find baby animals in their back yards or on trails.
But Fairfax police say folks should think twice before trying to step in and help a baby animal, according to a press release. More often than not, police said human intervention could hinder the animal’s chances at survival.
Animal protection officers said the most commonly found animals in Fairfax County are squirrels, red foxes, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, opossums and songbirds.
According to police, signs that an animal needs help include:
- Signs of flies, worms or maggots, which look like grains of rice
- Was caught by a cat or dog
- Signs of trauma, such as an open wound, bleeding, or swelling
- If the parents are known to be dead or are separated and cannot be united
- Is very cold, thin or weak
- Is on the ground unable to move
- Is not fully furred or feathered
Still, police noted that baby animals rehabilitated by their parents are much more likely to survive than those assisted by humans.
According to the press release:
A young animal’s best chance for survival is to receive natural care from its parents and remain wild. Survival rates of rehabilitated animals are often low and many do not survive their first year upon release back into the wild. Before intervening, please learn more about which wildlife species and situations you are most likely to encounter and ways to determine whether an animal needs help.
Police said many animals brought to wildlife professionals are in no actual need of human help. Baby animals left alone are not necessarily orphaned or abandoned and many species of wildlife hide their young for safety and leave them alone for extended periods of time.
According to the release:
If you come across a baby animal and feel the need to intervene, we offer guidelines below to determine if the animal needs help. If an animal is displaying these signs, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, veterinarian or our Animal Protection Police for further assistance and instruction. Please do not handle any baby wild animal and do not attempt to offer food or water unless instructed to do so by a professional. This can do more harm than good.
If you have questions about whether an animal needs help or to locate a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, police say people can contact the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline toll-free at 1-855-571-9003. This helpline is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 pm. Animal Protection Police can be reached through the non-emergency line at 703-691-2131.
Photo via Facebook
Tickets are rapidly disappearing for the 5th Annual Fishing Rodeo in Vienna on March 30. So if you’re interested in the trout fishing extravaganza, you may want to hook a ticket reel soon.
At the annual event in Wildwood Park (700 block of Follin Lane SE), hundreds of trout are dumped into Wolftrap Creek to swim right through banks packed to the gills with local fishers. Tickets are $3 per fisher.
Volunteers will provide instruction on fishing and stream education, as well as offering fish-cleaning demonstrations.
Half of the time slots have sold out. The remaining slots are:
- 9:30 a.m. — 12 tickets
- 10:30 a.m. — 41 tickets
- 11 a.m. — 16 tickets
Attendees are encouraged to bring their own fishing rod, bucket, plastic bag and ice A limited number of fishing rods are available to borrow. Bait will be supplied and fish marked with special tags can earn the fisher a gift card from a local merchant. All participants over 16 must possess a fishing license.
Tickets were available on sale to Vienna residents in January, but have since opened up to the public.
Photo via Facebook
What to Do About Backyard Wildlife — “Don’t pet or feed wild animals. In fact, local animal control encourages you to ‘haze’ them if at all possible. As winter sets in, homes around Fairfax County could look particularly appealing to animals looking for a refuge for the cold weather or a bite to eat.” [Reston Now]
Flood Watch Today — The area remains under a Flood Watch through 6 p.m. as rain continues today. Some storms may form later in the day. This evening, the solstice will usher in winter on the shortest day and longest night of the year. [FairfaxNews, Capital Weather Gang]
Winter Weather Reminder — “Today is officially the first day of winter! Enjoy the season but stay safe and warm. Sign up for Fairfax Alerts to stay informed on winter weather.” [Twitter, Fairfax Alerts]
Holiday Grocery Store Hours — Patch has a list of grocery stores around the Tysons area and the hours for each on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Most grocery stores will be closed on Dec. 25, though some will be open with reduced hours. [Patch]