Virginia Deer Population:  A state estimate of about one million deer in 2023 with a stable recent population trend.  The state estimated about 1,090,000 deer in 2018 and a recent peak of about 1,143,000 in 2013.  The state recently revised its deer population model which resulted in higher population estimates for years from 2010 forward.  Virginia 2023 Deer Season Forecast

Virginia Deer News

DWR opens public comment period over hunting hounds on May 22 May 18, 2024 Virginia, Yahoo

...  a proposal to require hunters to use a GPS collar for any dog used in deer or bear hunting if the animal is not restrained...  proposal would require a hunter to exercise ‘reasonable efforts’ to prevent their dog from entering a landowner’s property ...

To keep its coyote population in check, this county offers hunters cash prizes for kills May 1, 2024 Virginia, Cardinal News

... Coyotes are not native to Virginia... in the early 1980s, they were just starting to arrive ... studies have found that bobcats and bears are much more significant predators for deer, particularly fawns, than coyotes are... “Modeling suggests that you need to kill about 50% to 60% of the population every year over multiple years to really have an impact on coyote numbers,” ..,

Chronic Wasting Disease Detected for the First Time in Tazewell County April 18, 2024 Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources

... confirmed chronic wasting disease (CWD) in an adult male deer legally harvested in Tazewell County in November of 2023. This marks the first confirmed case of CWD in Tazewell County.  The deer was brought to a taxidermist in December, and DWR obtained the sample shortly thereafter as part of the Department’s proactive statewide CWD surveillance efforts..,

Virginia wildlife officials propose regulations to help manage hunting dogs April 3, 2024 The Virginian-Pilot

... The Board wants to hear from the public about a proposal to require use of GPS dog collars for any dog used in deer or bear hunting, if the animal is not already restrained. These collars are estimated to cost between $250 to $350...

Williamsburg seeks to curb deer population March 19, 2024 Virginia, Daily Press

... City Council voted unanimously last week to ... take steps to enroll the city in the Department of Wildlife Resources’ Urban Archery hunting season... The deer population in Virginia hovers around 1 million, according to DWR estimates. This number is much higher than the population’s nadir in the 1930s, when experts estimate there were about 25,000 in the entire state..,

The Virginia Appalachian Deer Study: Conclusions to Understanding Population Trends of Whitetails in the Allegheny Mountains March 7, 2023 Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

... the VADS crew observed a final 12-week fawn survival rate of 31 percent (0.310; 0.210-0.457). Similar to the previous update, black bears accounted for most fawn mortalities (n =18; 48 percent of all mortality), followed by bobcats (n = 5) and coyotes (n = 3)... Elevation was the most important predictor of fawn survival, with fawn mortality risk increasing as elevation increased..,

Man arrested for killing ‘Hollywood Buck’ facing 19 total charges for poaching, trespassing February 9, 2024 Virginia, WRIC on MSN

... killing Richmond’s beloved “Hollywood Buck” ... Trespass after forbidden, Killing a deer; exceeding bag limit, Trespassing to hunt, fish or trap, Hunting regulation: failure to report ...

Deer, Bear, and Turkey Harvest Numbers February 8, 2024 Virginia,

... Deer harvest numbers were up 12%. The DWR reports 206,586 deer were taken. That is a rebound from the year prior when numbers were down...

Four young elk were killed on a new highway. Virginia is trying to help the growing herd. February 8, 2024 Virginia, Cardinal News

... The elk herd in Southwest Virginia now numbers more than 250. The large animals often congregate around highways, where they find tasty plants to eat and salt to lick... yellow elk crossing signs ... will be installed..,

Suspect charged in killing of Hollywood Cemetery buck January 30, 2023 Virginia, Richmond

... charged with 19 separate wildlife violations ... several people who saw the Dec. 14 [Facebook] post recognized the animal as a frequent visitor of Hollywood Cemetery in the Oregon Hill neighborhood and reported the post to the DWR ...

Arlington, No consensus emerges on how to address deer population January 24, 2024 Virginia, Gazette Leader

... responses to the county-government poll ...  Surgical sterilization (non-lethal): 32 percent very supportive, 31 percent supportive, 11 percent neutral, 9 percent unsupportive, 15 percent very unsupportive...

Blacksburg PD resumes targeted hunting to reduce deer-related crashes January 8, 2024 Virginia, WFXR

... Over the last 20 years, the Town of Blacksburg has conducted deer culling operations in an attempt to help reduce deer-related crashes ...

A rare deer became legendary in Richmond. Then poachers showed up December 27, 2023 Virginia, The Washington Post

...  Facebook photos of a deer ... the images did resemble the famous deer ... the Hollywood buck, Prince, a legendary deer in Richmond’s urban wilds ... “We were able to determine that the deer was killed illegally, based on that recovered evidence ...” said Maj. Ryan Shuler of the Department of Wildlife Resources...

Famous Richmond deer allegedly killed by poacher: ‘Such a punch to the gut’  December 15, 2023 Richmond-Petersburg WWBT 

... had a lot of fans in the river city, and now those fans were heartbroken... was killed by a poacher... has been around for at least 10 years. She described him as friendly and often allowed people to get close to him for pictures...

Deer populations in Virginia's cities and suburbs are increasing while the number of hunters declines December 11, 2023 Cardinal News

... Using in-depth population reconstruction, the department estimates that Virginia’s whitetail population currently stands at about a million animals... estimated population of 25,000 in 1931, a point at which deer had started recovery from being nearly completely wiped out due to over-exploitation that started soon after the arrival of European settlers 300 years earlier..,

‘Oh deer’; Virginia Department of Transportation receives $600K to identify roads with the most wildlife collisions December 6, 2023 Virginia, WRIC

... the funding will allow for the construction of wildlife crossings over and below busy roads, as well as increased fencing, improved tracking and mapping tools and more...

Survival, cause‐specific mortality, and population growth of white‐tailed deer in western Virginia  - The Journal of Wildlife Management, 2023

... . In the central Appalachian Mountains, deer are part of a largely forested ecosystem that supports 3 carnivore species thought to be capable of influencing white-tailed deer recruitment: black bears (Urus americanus), coyotes (Canis latrans), and bobcats (Lynx rufus). Yet little is known about predation, how other environmental factors influence recruitment, or the importance of neonate survival to white-tailed deer population performance in the region ... While predation, largely influenced by black bears, was the leading cause of neonate mortality and contributed to low neonate survival, we observed little evidence of population decline, and suggest there is opportunity for a modest increase in harvest of female deer...

For Love of Nature: Hunters needed to control deer population November 8, 2023 Virginia, The News & Advance

... Virginia may be home to as many as 1 million deer, a remarkable comeback after European settlers nearly wiped them out by the early 1900s. It’s hard to imagine that 4,264 deer had to be imported or translocated within the state between 1926 and 1992... [an interview with Matt Knox, a deer project coordinator with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources based in Bedford]

Virginia deer collisions top 6,100 in 2022 October October 11, 2023 Richmond Times-Dispatch

... Fall is deer-mating season, so the animals are more active and therefore, more likely to dart into the roadway ... over 6,100 such collisions last year in Virginia ...

Virginia 2023 Deer Season Forecast September 29, 2023 Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries News

... 2022 gave us an above-average acorn crop across most of the state, making hunting a bit tougher but allowing deer to really pack on the fat for winter. It looks like it’s going to be a different story for 2023 for much of the state. Preliminary reports from our annual mast surveys indicate a pretty poor mast crop, especially for white oaks and chestnut oaks..,

Chronic Wasting Disease, Virginia Tech leads effort to stop disease threatening Virginia deer herds September 20, 2023 Virginia, WAVY-TV

... Because there is no cure or vaccine, containment is vital. Escobar says the key is figuring out the way the disease is spread geographically... “Virginia is just starting, we have infections in areas in the north of Virginia and on the border with West Virginia.” ... [see video below]

York County expands hunting season to counter booming deer population September 1, 2023 Virginia, Daily Press

...  in York County, Engelmeyer said, efforts to control the deer population remain especially vexing because of the unique combination of people and property. Upward of 80% of the county’s land is suitable deer habitat, but under 30% is huntable ...

Arlington, Animal Welfare League Backs Non-Lethal Approach To Deer In Arlington July 7 2023 Virginia, Patch

... Potential humane solutions to deer management include sterilization, tree caging, humane scare devices such as water sprayers, odor deterrents, or commercial repellents, according to AWLA. Sterilization was particularly effective in Fairfax City, which saw a reduction from an estimated 91 deer per square mile in 2014 to 40 deer per square mile in 2018 ...

Arlington to consider hunting and sterilizing deer, or fencing parks, to cull June 27, 2023 Virginia,

... Through Thursday, July 13, residents can take an online survey to share their thoughts on the four lethal and non-lethal methods on the table:

Virginia Deer News and Information Archive by TopicPopulation and Management, Deer in the News, Disease, Suburban, Transportation, Deer Resistant Plants

Virginia Deer:  A rough estimate of as many as 1 million deer in 2023 The deer kill from the 2023-24 hunt was up 12% after falling 8% below the 10 year average in the 2022-23 hunting season.  The hunting season was extended to March in some areas to control chronic wasting disease.  The Virginia 2023 Deer Season Forecast reports an above average acorn crop for 2022 but a poor 2023 crop.  A study of the Allegheny Mountains reported in 2024 that only 31 percent of fawns survived 12 weeks with black bears accounting for most, about half, of the mortalities.

Using digitized data from a population graph provided by Virginia Department of Wildlfe Resources (VDWR), the state estimated a deer population of 1,090,000 in 2019 and a recent peak population of 1,143,000 in 2013.  Using hunting data, the buck kill, gives an estimate of 980,000 in 2022, 1,022,000 in 2021, and 1,094,000 for 2020.  An abundant acorn crop contributed to less hunting success in 2022 and 2021, but a decline in the deer population also contributed to the 2021 decline. 2022 Deer Forecast 2021 Deer Forecast

Virginia Estimated Deer Population:  2000 to 2022

The population estimates for 2003 to 2019 were taken from a VDWR graph.  Year 2000 to 2002 and 2020 to 2022 are based on the buck kill.  Details  The correlation between the population and deer kill from the hunt changes in 2010.  VDWR revised its populaton model around 2019 for years 2010 forward.  The data in the graph.

The buck kill declined by 4 percent in 2022. The annual deer kill from the hunt fell by 25 percent in 2022 from 2013, when the population was estimated by the state at 1,143,000.  Comments from the state in the press indicate the population was stable from 2017 into 2019 and 2021.  

Graph of historic deer kill below from Virginia DWR. 1947 to 2023

Population estimates and graphics from

 2015-2024 Deer Plan. 1600 to 2014

These estimates are prior to the population model revisions for years 2010 to 2020.

The increase in the 2019 hunt was largely attributed to more hunting days.  An estimate from the state of 850,000 deer in 2018 has since been updated to  1,110,000 using the revised population model.  An estimated deer population reported by Outdoor Life of 900,000 in 2017 when the Earn a Buck program was expanded to reduce the herd size. This estimate also reflects the old population model updated for 2010 forward.  

 In the west, as of 2018, deer herds on private land had been mostly stable over the past two decades while herds on public land have declined significantly, with a recent slow rebound.  The increased  doe harvest over the 10 years prior to 2017 was designed to stabilize or reduce the population, especially on private lands in the east.  An outbreak of hemorrhagic disease was reported in the southwest in 2017, normally confined to the east.  

A warm fall in 2015 and abundant deer food allowed deer populations to recover.   The The deer harvest for 2014 was down around 21 percent, with the most dramatic declines in the east, indicating a significant drop in the population.  Partly due to the large acorn crop that kept the deer from moving, but also reduced population from predation, disease (EHD), and liberal hunting regulations in previous years.  Climate change may be contributing the the almost 40 percent drop in deer populations in some areas.  

 In 2003 an estimate of 1,038,601 and 945,060 for 2013, a lower population as a result of increased doe hunting licenses, a poor acorn crop, and a severe outbreak of Hemorrhagic Disease that reduced the herd significantly in some areas starting in late summer of 2012.  

A population estimate of 850,000 in 2009 compared to the state estimate above of 942,457 and an estimate of 600,000 in 1990.

Peak harvest of about 260,000 in 2009. The state maintains balanced demographics with does accounting for about half of the harvest - 48% in 2013. The deer harvest fell by about 40 percent from 2008 to 2014 in Shenandoah County. The overall goal for the state is to keep the deer population stable.  According to the recent state deer plan, the deer population has been relatively stable over the past decade at between 901,000 and 1,117,000. .

The deer management plan for 2015 to 2024 proposed an increase in the deer population on public lands in the Shenandoah Valley and along the Interstate 81 corridor to the southwestern tip of Virginia, and a reduction of the number of deer on private property in Northern Virginia and some other parts of the state. 

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD)  A severe outbreak in 2019.  Another outbreak in 2020.   Hemorrhagic disease (HD) in 2022.

Chronic Wasting Disease  (CWD)  First discovered in 2009 in Frederick county.   Twenty positives in the 2020-21 hunting season.  By mid-2020, 88 positives. By mid-2019, 68 confirmed.  Into 2018, 40 deer tested positive.  Through 2017, 38 deer, 16 in 2017.   An increase in deer found with CWD found in the northwestern part of the state in 2016.  The first positive case in Montgomery County was identified in 2021, 160 miles from the closest other known case.  As of 2021 a total of 109 positive cases.  At the end of 2022 there were cases in eight counties.  In 2023.  In 2024.

History  Deer populations were hunted to very low levels by the late 1800's and nearly depleted in the western part of the state. There were only about 25,000 to 50,000 deer left in the state in the 1930's.  An estimated 25,000 in 1931.  Deer were brought in from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin during the 1930's.  Economic hardship drove many hunters into the field during the Great Depression.  Conservation efforts allowed the deer populations to recover during the 1940's to the early 1990's when the deer population reached its current approximate size.   Estimates: 150,000 in early 1950s, 422,000 in 1980, 575,000 in 1987, 900,000 around 2005.  Another estimate of 200,000 in 1968.  An estimate of 25,000 in 1923 and 900,000 in 1994 [page 2]

Elk  An estimated 250 elk in southwest Virginia at the beginning of 2024.  The first modern elk hunt in 2023 raised money, but some question the hunting ethics.  The state counted more than 250 elk in 2022.  About 300 in 2020.  Nearly 250 in 2019.  About 200 elk in the state in 2018.  About 150 to 200 elk in 2016.  In 2012, 16 elk with GPS tracking collars were reintroduced in a pilot program in Buchanan County.  Efforts to reintroduce elk in the early 1900's failed.  The Buchanan County herd grew to about 75 by 2018.

Coyotes are not native to Virginia and started to arrive in the 1980s.

Cougar  The last known eastern cougar in Virginia was killed in Washington County in 1882.

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