As of September 1, feeding deer is now illegal in the state of Virginia. According to The Franklin News-Post, the annual prohibition runs through the first Saturday in January.
Since the deer feeding prohibition first went into effect, amendments have been made to the original law. Those amendments include; 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 1, any area where deer feed has been distributed must be dubbed a “baited” area for 10 days following the complete removal of the food, and it is illegal to feed deer year-round in Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties, as well as in the City of Winchester as part of the department’s chronic wasting disease (CWD) management actions.
Before the annual prohibition was put into effect, deer hunting with bait was and still is illegal in Virginia. One of the main reasons this specific prohibition was put into effect is to help law enforcement distinguish between who is feeding the deer and who is hunting the deer through the use of bait.
According to WCYB, feeding deer can unnaturally increase the species’ population and damage natural habitats. Deer feeding can also increase the likelihood for disease transmission and increase vehicle collisions with deer.
Fed deer are often to seek other human foods, which can lead the animals into unnecessary conflict with people. Despite a deer’s gentle appearance, these animals can become lethally dangerous during mating season, and are capable of goring and slashing with sharp hooves and antlers. There are numerous cases across the country of lethal deer injuries being sustained by animals that were thought of as pets.
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.
– Olivia Kinser