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Virginia deer feeding ban begins September 1

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RICHMOND, Va. — It will be illegal to feed deer in Virginia beginning Thursday, September 1. Virginia’s deer feeding ban runs through the first Saturday in January for most of the state. Year-long deer feeding bans are in place in Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, and Warren counties and the City of Winchester.

“Feeding deer can unnaturally increase deer populations and damage natural habitats; increase the likelihood for disease transmission; increase human-deer conflicts such as deer/vehicle collisions, and diminish the wild nature of deer,” a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF)spokesperson said. “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 even tame, in some cases.”

Under state law, feed must be removed from deer feeding sites by September 1 and any area where deer feed has been distributed is considered a “baited” area and cannot be hunted over for 10 days following the complete removal of the food, according to VDGIF.

“Despite their gentle appearance, [deer] can become lethally dangerous during mating season, capable of goring and slashing with their sharp hooves and antlers,” the spokesperson said. “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 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 12 additional deer in Frederick and Shenandoah counties near the West Virginia line.

It is clear that the negative consequences of feeding deer outweigh the benefits. Feeding deer is against the law statewide between September 1 and the first Saturday in January, with even longer restrictions in some areas.

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.