Suffolk goes wild for environmental awareness

Published 9:50 pm Tuesday, April 24, 2018

By Biff and Susan Andrews

There is hope. Bears are on the increase. Deer are everywhere. Chesapeake Bay grasses are healthier and healthier. And Suffolk environmental awareness is rampant. Suffolk just may lead all of Tidewater in concern for the environment.

In 1931, the total deer population in Virginia was estimated at 25,000 total. 2017 saw hunters “harvest” 189,000. Why the tremendous increase? Intelligent, scientific management of the herd.


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A week or two ago, an article appeared in a local paper touting the increase in black bears in the state and how many may be showing up in a neighborhood near you. Another article argued against killing bears at all as they are not aggressive and basically harmless. Let a thousand flowers bloom. All is well in Virginia.

Even more hopeful was last weekend’s response to Earth Day. We think Suffolk had more, bigger and better involvement than any other Tidewater city. On Saturday there was the Suffolk Earth and Arts Festival on the grounds of Westminster Presbyterian Church on Route 10. There was music in the air, plant sales, environmental booths, activities for kids, food vendors and well more than 1,000 visitors in attendance. Even dogs were welcome.

Sunday saw activities shift over to Sleepy Hole Park, again with a focus on environmental education, ecologically friendly activities and demonstrations, as well as activities for the kids. Even canoeing activities were available.

This week, a world-renowned migratory birding festival is being held at the Great Dismal Swamp. Though somewhat cut back from previous years due to current budget cuts, there are still birding tours, guided walks and more. Every birder in North America wants to see a Swainson’s Warbler, and this is where and when to see them.

Recently, the papers have been castigating the current administration’s slashing of regulations against migratory bird protection. You may see a decline in swan and cardinal populations as a result of this deregulation, according to the news.

But there is hope. By educating the younger generation. By celebrating God’s beautiful creatures. By managing herds, promoting native plants, instructing people in eco-friendly practices and encouraging folks to get out and participate in protecting the environment. Suffolk seems to be moving toward taking a major leadership role in Earth-friendly programs in the Tidewater area. The numbers of visitors to our city for these events is shouting “Surprising Suffolk!”

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at