Many residents enjoy seeing white-tailed deer up close and may feel they are contributing to the animal’s welfare by providing supplemental food. Unfortunately, feeding deer can have unintended negative consequences and often does more harm than good. Feeding deer can lead to nutritional problems, increased habitat damage where high density herds are concentrated, dangerous encounters when animals lose their natural fear of humans and feeding can facilitate the spread of diseases among wildlife that congregate in feeding areas. Not only do wildlife officials recommend against feeding deer, it is against the law to feed deer in Fairfax County for the majority of the year.
Feeding deer for any reason is illegal statewide within Virginia from September 1 to the first Saturday in January (4VAC15-40-285). Further, it is illegal to feed deer in any city, town, or county during any deer or elk hunting season. Effectively, this means it is illegal to feed deer in Fairfax County from September 1 through the last Sunday in April to coincide with the deer hunting season. The feeding ban applies to both public lands and private properties within the Commonwealth.
The feeding ban restricts the placement or distribution of any food, salt, mineral or similar substances for any purpose if the placement of these materials results in the attraction of and/or feeding of deer. This does not restrict bona fide agronomic plantings (including wildlife food plots), bona fide distribution of food to livestock or wildlife management activities conducted or authorized by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF).
If anyone sees or suspects someone of illegally feeding deer during this time period, or observes any wildlife violations, they are asked to please report it to DGIF’s Wildlife Crime Line at 1-800-237-5712 or email WildCrime@dgif.virginia.gov.
For additional information on managing wildlife interactions and resolving human-wildlife conflicts, the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline is available toll-free at (855) 571-9003, 8:00AM-4:30PM, Monday through Friday. This helpline is a collaborative effort between the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Wildlife Services.
More information on the deer feeding ban can be found at https://blog.wildlife.virginia.gov/outdoor-report/2016/08/deer-feeding-ban-to-begin-september-1/.