Oh Deer: Feeding deer becomes illegal Friday

(Photo: USDA)

RICHMOND, Va. (WSET) - The statewide deer feeding ban begins Friday.

The annual prohibition on feed deer runs through the first Saturday in January in most of the state.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says all feed must be removed from any deer feeding site prior to September 1.

The department has the following guidelines:

  • 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.
  • It is illegal to feed deer or elk in any county, city, or town during any deer or elk hunting season. Urban archery season runs through March and deer seasons run through April in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties.
  • It is illegal to feed deer year-round in Buchanan, Clarke, Dickenson, Frederick, Shenandoah, Warren, and Wise counties (including the cities and towns within).
  • These restrictions do not apply to agricultural plantings (including wildlife food plots) or food distributed to livestock.

Officials say feeding deer can unnaturally increase deer populations, damage natural habitats, increase the likelihood for disease transmission, increase human-deer conflicts such vehicle collisions with deer, and diminish the wild nature of deer.

"Fed deer are often emboldened to seek human foods, leading them into conflict with people. Feeding deer leads to the prolonged crowding of animals in a small area, resulting in more direct animal to animal contact, contamination of feeding sites, and greater risk of disease transmission," the release from VDGIF reads.

Officials say deer hunting over bait is illegal in the state.

They say prior to the 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.

If anyone sees or suspects someone of illegally feeding deer, or observes any wildlife violations, you can report it to the DGIF's Wildlife Crime Line at 1-800-237-5712.

To learn more about Virginia’s wildlife and regulations visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website by clicking here.

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