The Bulletin

New deer hunting regulations approved as chronic wasting disease spreads to Southwest Virginia 

By: - May 27, 2021 2:19 pm

A white-tailed deer. (Style Weekly)

As chronic wasting disease continues its spread across Virginia, the Board of Wildlife Resources on Thursday approved a set of changes to hunting regulations designed to curb the neurological condition, which has a 100 percent fatality rate among deer and related species. 

Earlier this month, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources announced a deer killed by a hunter in southwestern Montgomery County had tested positive for chronic wasting disease. The discovery was made by a taxidermist who participates in the state’s surveillance program and was confirmed by the department after additional testing and collection of DNA samples from the deer.

“We indeed came back with a 100 percent match and are extremely confident that this CWD-positive deer came from southwest Montgomery County,” DWR Assistant Bureau Director Cale Godfrey told the board. 

The deer marked the first case of chronic wasting disease in Southwest Virginia and triggered the creation of a new disease management area encompassing Montgomery, Pulaski and Floyd counties. Fawns can no longer be rehabilitated in those counties, and the transport of deer carcasses is now restricted. People are also barred from feeding deer within 25 miles of the positive case location. 

A mandatory sampling day has been scheduled for Nov. 13. Any hunters who bag a deer in the new disease management area on that day will be required to take the animal to a department check station for sampling. 

The positive case brings the number of Virginia counties affected by chronic wasting disease to 14, or “about 13 percent of the land area of the commonwealth,” according to Godfrey. 

The Montgomery case came in the midst of an ongoing effort to tighten and refine state wildlife regulations to limit the spread of the disease, which first appeared in Virginia in 2009. 

Among the regulatory changes approved unanimously by the Board of Wildlife Resources Thursday were amendments expanding or creating certain firearms seasons in affected counties and clarifying the rules surrounding transportation of deer carcasses and parts in and out of high-risk areas. 

The new regulations will go into effect Aug. 1. 

The board also voted to put out for public comment additional amendments related to the positive case out of Montgomery. The changes would extend the general firearms season on non-national forest lands in Montgomery and Pulaski counties from two to four weeks, allow “disease focus zones” to be established in the management area and repeal certain restrictions in Fairystone Wildlife Management Area.

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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is the Mercury's environment and energy reporter, covering everything from utility regulation to sea level rise. Originally from McLean, she has spent over a decade in journalism and academic publishing. She previously worked as a staff reporter for Chesapeake Bay Journal, the Progress-Index and the Caroline Progress, and her work has been twice honored by the Virginia Press Association as "Best in Show" for online writing. She was chosen for the 2020 cohort of the Columbia Energy Journalism Institute and is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. Contact her at [email protected]