RICHMOND—Effective Sept. 1, it will be illegal to feed deer statewide in Virginia. The annual prohibition runs through the first Saturday in January.
In addition to the ban, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has made several amendments to the prohibition.
New this year, it will be illegal to feed deer and elk in Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise counties at any time. It also will be illegal to feed deer or elk in any county, city or town during any deer or elk hunting season. All feed must be removed from any deer feeding site prior to Sept. 1, and a regulation has been established that makes any area where deer feed has been distributed a “baited” area for 10 days following the complete removal of the food.
DGIF says problems with feeding deer include unnaturally increasing population numbers that damage natural habitats; increased likelihood of disease transmission; increases in human-deer conflicts such as vehicle accidents, and diminishing the wild nature of deer.
The department cites increased deer feeding in Virginia over the past decade is one of the state’s biggest wildlife disease risk factors. It has been implicated as a major risk factor and contributor in three of the most important deer diseases in North America today; tuberculosis, brucellosis and CWD. Since the first case was found in 2009, CWD has been detected in five deer in western Frederick County near the West Virginia line.
In addition, feeding deer has law enforcement implications. Deer hunting over bait is illegal in Virginia. Prior to the deer feeding prohibition, distinguishing between who was feeding deer and who was hunting over bait often caused law enforcement problems for DGIF’s conservation police officers.
According to the department, feeding deer holds far greater consequences than benefits. If you are not feeding deer, you should not start, they say, and if you are currently, should stop.
Anyone who sees or suspects someone of illegally feeding deer between Sept. 1 and Jan. 4, 2014 or observes any other wildlife violations, is encouraged to report it to DGIF’s Wildlife Crime Line at 1-800-237-5217.
For more about Virginia wildlife regulations, visit the DGIF website at www.dgif.virginia.gov.