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Virginia deer feeding ban starts Thursday

Southwest Virginia Bureau • Aug 29, 2016 at 10:30 PM

RICHMOND -- Effective Thursday, it will be illegal to feed deer in Virginia, a prohibition through the first Saturday in January.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said all feed must be removed from any deer feeding site prior to Sept. 1. The restrictions do not apply to agricultural plantings, including wildlife food plots, or food distributed to livestock.

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 food. It is illegal to feed deer or elk in Virginia during any of the hunting seasons.

It is illegal to feed deer year round in Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties and the city of Winchester, as part of the agency's chronic wasting disease (CWD) management actions in those locations.

Most people mean well, but feeding deer can unnaturally increase deer populations and damage natural habitats, increase the likelihood for the spread of disease and diminish the wild nature of deer. Deer hunting over bait is illegal in Virginia. Prior to the deer feeding ban, distinguishing between who was feeding deer and who was hunting over bait often caused law enforcement problems for the state's conservation officers.

Deer feeding now represents one of Virginia's biggest wildlife disease risk factors. Feeding deer leads to 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, including tuberculosis, brucellosis and CWD. Since the first CWD case was found in 2009, the disease has been detected in a dozen additional deer in Frederick and Shenandoah counties near the West Virginia line.

To learn more about Virginia's wildlife and regulations, visit the agency's website at www.dgif.virginia.gov.