(Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources)
A Southwest Virginia delegate’s shot at expanding the deer hunting season to year-round on private property appears to have missed the mark this session.
On Jan. 18, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee failed to take any action on House Bill 1811 from Del. Marie March, R-Floyd.
While March said Friday she is tweaking the bill, and subcommittee Chairman James Edmunds, R-Halifax, said it could possibly still be brought back in amended form to apply only to March’s locality, House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, said the bill is likely to remain dormant.
“I don’t see a path forward for the bill,” Ware said, noting “the subcommittee heard the testimony and didn’t feel compelled to make a motion.”
The bill was a way to address the deer population in Southwest Virginia, March said during a hearing on the proposal.
“[My parents] live in east Tennessee, and they say they’ve never seen as many deer as when they come see us in Southwest Virginia,” she said.
Department of Wildlife Resources modeling indicates the state’s deer population has been relatively stable over the past decade, between about 900,000 and 1.1 million. Currently, the hunting season is limited to the fall and early winter, with extensions for certain localities.
March said extending the season could help address several problems around the state linked to deer, including the appearance of chronic wasting disease in Fairfax County, which adopted an urban archery program to curb the deer population. A 2021 drone study found Arlington’s deer population had exceeded healthy levels. Lyme disease from ticks associated with deer is also a concern, she said, and seasonal workers have complained about not enough time to hunt.
Stephanie Taillon, senior assistant director of governmental relations for the Virginia Farm Bureau, said extending the hunting season would allow farmers to protect crops and livestock that are damaged from deer as soon as damage occurs.
The Department of Wildlife Resources was neutral on the proposed legislation.
Deer are the most hunted and most viewed species in Virginia, said DWR Executive Director Ryan Brown. The state’s current 10-year deer management plan recognizes numbers are not uniform around Virginia, he added, with urban and suburban areas typically having larger populations due to the lack of hunting opportunities.
The plan has led to some of the longest hunting seasons in the country, Brown said. Virginia also has a kill permit program for when wildlife has damaged crops or residential plants, and the department offers guidance for non-lethal solutions.
“It’s not exactly the case that a longer season necessarily leads to greater harvest,” Brown said. “We do our best according to the science and according to the cultural demands of the affected.”
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