Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries News Release
Richmond, VA — Effective September 1, it will be illegal to feed deer statewide in Virginia. The annual prohibition runs through the first Saturday in January. In addition, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' (DGIF) Board has made the following amendments to the deer feeding prohibition.
New this year:
It is illegal to feed deer and elk in Buchanan, Dickenson, and Wise counties at any time.
It is 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 September 1st.
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.
It is also illegal to feed deer year-round in Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, and Warren counties and in the City of Winchester as part of the Department's chronic wasting disease (CWD) management actions.
Problems with Feeding Deer
Problems with feeding deer include: unnaturally increasing population numbers that damage natural habitats; increasing the likelihood for disease transmission; increasing human-deer conflicts such as deer/vehicle collisions, and diminishing the wild nature of deer.
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 the Department's conservation police officers.
Deer Are Wild Animals
In their natural state, deer are wild animals that have a fear of humans because we have preyed upon deer for thousands of years. However, when deer are fed by people, they lose this fear, becoming less wild and often semi-domesticated.
Fed deer are often emboldened to seek human foods, leading them into conflict with people. Despite their gentle appearance, they can become lethally dangerous during mating season, capable of goring and slashing with their sharp hooves and antlers. There are numerous cases across the country of individuals injured, and in some cases even killed, by deer they treated as pets.
People often treat the deer they feed as if they own them, even going so far as to name individual deer. Not only does this association diminish the "wildness" of "wildlife", it also leads to a mistaken notion regarding ownership of wildlife. Deer and other wildlife are owned by all citizens of the Commonwealth and are managed by the Department as a public resource.
Deer Feeding Congregates Animals, Increasing the Spread of Disease
The increase in deer feeding that has taken place in Virginia over the past decade now represents one of Virginia's biggest wildlife disease risk factors. Deer feeding sets the stage for maintaining and facilitating the spread of disease.
Diseases are a big issue in deer management today across the United States. Feeding deer invariably leads to the prolonged crowding of animals in a small area, resulting in more direct animal to animal contact and contamination of feeding sites. Deer feeding has been implicated as a major risk factor and contributor in three of the most important deer diseases in North America today. These include 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.
Please Don't Feed Deer
It is clear that the negative consequences of feeding deer outweigh the benefits. If you are not feeding deer, you should not start. If you are currently feeding deer, you should now stop. Feeding deer is against the law between September 1 and the first Saturday in January. If anyone sees or suspects someone of illegally feeding deer during this time period, or observes any wildlife violations, please report it to DGIF's Wildlife Crime Line at 1-800-237-5712.
To learn more about Virginia wildlife regulations visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.
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