Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Politics of Whitetail Deer in Virginia

Today is election day; VOTE!
The Whitetail deer species is Odocoileus virginianus, named after the state of Virginia.

And yet, in 1930 there were almost no deer left in Virginia due to over hunting. The state-wide population was then estimated at just 25,000.

Today, however, there are around a million deer in Virginia -- more white-tail than at any other time in U.S. history.

How did that happen? Simple: government.

It was the the federal government that passed the Weeks Act in 1911 that bought up the forest-denuded mountains and established the George Washington National Forest which was soon joined by the Monongahela, Jefferson, and Shenandoah.

It was the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, with helpful funding from the federal government, that box-trapped deer in other states and restocked parts of Virginia and put limits on total take by sex and season.

Today, deer are so plentiful in the Commonwealth that the objectives of wildlife officials have changed. The new challenge, at least in some areas, is to reduce deer populations in order to lessen their impact on overgrazing, limit the risk of disease, and reduce the number of deer-car collisions.

Virginia Deer Harvest, 1947–present

What makes this a challenge is the rising level of suburban edge habitat unsuitable for hunting, and the steady decline in hunters of all kinds.

The good news is that active game management in Virginia has mostly kept deer populations at mid-levels over most of the state, and a rise in bow shooting has helped reduce some populations in less rural areas.

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