West Virginia Deer Population:  A 2021 whitetail deer population estimate of 420,000, down from about 550,000 deer in 2017.  Mild winters in 2021-22 and 2018-19 winter improved deer survival, but an outbreak of EHD reduced populations in some regions into 2019.  The population had been on a managed decline for about two decades, peaking in the early 2000's and 1990 with a state population estimate of 937,770 in 1990. 

CWD found in Jefferson County, West Virginia, for first time  April 8, 2024 WVDNR News

     The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) announced today that chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been confirmed in four white-tailed deer in Jefferson County.  “Jefferson County has been part of the CWD containment area for several years because it lies adjacent to CWD-positive counties in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland,” said Paul Johansen, chief of the Wildlife Resources Section..,

Curious About West Virginia's 2023 Harvest Numbers for Deer, Turkey, Bear? DNR Big Game Bulletin is Out April 1, 2024 Connect Bridgeport

...  Click HERE for the bulletin... Highlights from this year’s report include:  109,246 total white-tailed deer harvests ...

Whitetail deer research into the home stretch March 1, 2024 West Virginia, WV MetroNews

... “Hunter harvest is the leading source of mortality across all three study areas. We’ve had about 160 mortalities recorded and about 60 of those were hunter harvest. In the central and western study areas hunter harvest has been the highest source mortality, but it’s actually second in Hampshire County behind chronic wasting disease,” ...

17 elk added to WV herd February 9, 2024 West Virginia, The Wildlife Society

...  The new elk were translocated from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky, bringing West Virginia’s herd to 127. They are the first of 40 new elk the state plans to introduce this year...

Oglebay, Community to Help Tackle Deer Problem January 25, 2024 West Virginia, The Intelligencer

...  The November hunt only harvested 16 deer; if the population numbers are accurate, the hunt ended up being ineffective... folks felt betrayed by not having any input into how best to deal with the deer population...

Harvest totals for several West Virginia hunting seasons down for 2023 January 17, 2024 WV News, WV News

... A total of 45,155 bucks were harvested during the state’s Nov. 4 to Dec. 3 buck firearms season, a decline of about 7.5% compared to the previous year ... A total of 21,917 deer were harvested during the statewide archery and crossbow season ... “That is approximately 32% below 2022,” ..,

Gov. Jim Justice Announces Plans to Introduce More Elk in West Virginia, Expand Wildlife Tourism  January 12, 2024 West Virginia DNR

... will introduce 40 new elk to the state’s growing herd in 2024 and create a visitors center and observation tower in Logan County ...  The current elk population is 110...

The practice of baiting deer is still a subject of controversy December 28, 2023 West Virginia, The Inter-Mountain

... These days there seems to be so much competition over who is going to get the biggest buck, back then that wasn’t the case. You couldn’t eat the horns, the meat was more important.  I think that is part of the reason some hunters bait so heavily, they want to hold the deer in their areas...

Buck harvest drops more than 7% in 2023 season December 23, 2023 West Virginia, Dominion Post

"...   the overall harvest during the two-week buck hunting season in West Virginia was down 7.5% from the 2022 harvest...  All areas of the state registered an average decrease of 11%, with the exception of the southeastern areas that had an increase of 19% from the 2022 harvest.” [Paul Johansen, chief of the Wildlife Resources Section]

Oglebay, Wheeling Park Commission Hears Deer Population Task Force Proposal December 20, 2023 West Virginia, The Intelligencer

... Members of the community pitched to the Wheeling Park Commission on Tuesday the formation of a Deer Population Control Task Force. The idea, they said, was to create a plan for non-lethal methods of deer population control at Oglebay Park...

Chestnut tree thrives at Harrison power station December 14, 2023 West Virginia, Clarksburg-Weston WDTV 

...  the American chestnut trees that once made the nuts so abundantly available in the 1800s when that song was written are now a rare site... There are a lot of deer here on site. It’s food for them.” [see restoration of the American chestnut tree] ...

Hunters in West Virginia harvest more than 45,000 bucks during firearm season December 13, 2023  WV News

... The 2023 harvest was 7.5% below the 2022 harvest, which totaled 48,810 bucks... “Average hard mast indices paired with bad weather during the opening few days ...,

West Virginia leads in the nation in deer collisions November 25, 2023 Yahoo News

... Between Jan. 1 and Monday, Nov. 20, there were 10,618 deer that were hit on West Virginia highways...

Oglebay Officials Say Deer Hunt Was Effective, Similar Events Possible in Future November 25, 2023 West Virginia, The Intelligencer

...Of the 16 deer collected during the hunt, 10 were does ... One component, Faulkenberry said, was to add a border collie to the park’s team...  methods to curb the feeding of deer at the park ...

Deer hunters find success on opening day November 20, 2023 West Virginia, MetroNews

... Most hunters indicated the rutting activity was still underway. The buck season is generally timed to happen after the peak of rutting activity so the largest number of bucks will be done breeding before they are killed...

Buck season begins in WV November 20, 2023 West Virginia, HD Media

...  radio-collared deer... part of the state’s Whitetail Deer Research Project ... Skelly said. “I expected about 65% mortality during the season, and 35 outside the season. Right now, the numbers are running about 50-50, with a slight lean toward in-season mortality.” ... nonseasonal mortality includes deer that die in automobile collisions, deer that are killed by coyotes and deer that succumb to viral or bacterial infections...

Buck Gun Season Begins Monday, Antlerless Deer Included November 17, 2023 West Virginia, WVPB Public Broadcasting

... Paul Johansen, the Wildlife Resources chief for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said deer hunting seasons are structured to achieve harvest objectives set for all 55 counties.  “The focus is making sure that the appropriate numbers of female deer are removed from the population,” Johansen said...

Buck Gun Season Begins Monday, Antlerless Deer Included November 17, 2023 West Virginia Public Broadcasting

... More than a quarter million hunters will take to the Mountain State woodlands for the two week firearm deer hunting season starting Monday... “The focus is making sure that the appropriate numbers of female deer are removed from the population,” Johansen said...

Deer tests positive for rabies in Hampshire November 8, 2023 West Virginia, Hampshire Review

... The WVDA has announced that a free-roaming white-tail deer tested positive for rabies in Hampshire County... all mammals, including white-tailed deer, are susceptible to rabies...

Oglebay,Opposition to Oglebay Deer Hunt Continues November 3, 2023 West Virginia, The Intelligencer

... If there is overpopulation, Kahle wants Oglebay to work alongside a wildlife biologist to determine “the most humane method” of managing the deer population... “Oglebay hired a PR consultant, which rubbed people the wrong way. The money spent on the PR consultant could’ve been used for a wildlife biology consultant to look at the issue from their expert standpoint.” ...

Oglebay, Court rules deer hunt at Oglebay can happen October 19, 2023 West Virginia, WTRF Wheeling 

... In a court order, it is stated that “Having thoroughly considered the parties’ briefings, the Court finds the facts and legal arguments to have been adequately presented, and that the decisional process would be not significantly aided by oral argument... [Citizen Petition]

West Virginia's 96 Wildlife Management Areas are public-land hunting oases October 14, 2023 WV News

... A total of 1.4 million acres, or 8% of the total land area of the state, is managed by the Wildlife Resources Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. This land makes up the 96 wildlife management areas across the state..,

Oglebay, Amended Petition Questions WVDNR's Involvement in Oglebay Deer Hunt Plan October 7, 2023 West Virginia, The Intelligencer

... Wheeling residents to prevent Oglebay’s urban deer hunt alleges that Oglebay has “consistently and repeatedly lied” about the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ involvement in providing an estimate of the amount of deer at the park...

Oglebay responds after Wheeling residents file lawsuit to stop deer hunt October 6, 2023 West Virginia, WTRF.com

... ” This lawsuit is about a beloved local, municipal park resorting to a public hunt of a tame deer herd within the park boundaries when the park executives have no scientific basis for the perceived overpopulation of deer, have made no attempts to stop the reason the deer are tame, and have marketed and benefitted from the hand-feeding of the deer herd...

Oglebay, Deer Hunt Will Proceed at Oglebay Despite Backlash October 4, 2023 West Virginia, The Intelligencer

... “The community is outraged and wants Oglebay to follow the law,” said Toriseva. “Oglebay has misrepresented details of the hunt and used marketing as science.”...  cries across the valley against the deer hunt have caused concern for vendors at Oglebayfest. Sellers are worried their bottom line may be affected by the outrage...

Oglebay, Local law firm submits FOIA requests for upcoming urban deer culling September 24, 2023 West Virginia, WTRF

... Teresa Toriseva with Toriseva Law recently told West Virginia Record that hunting wildlife has always been part of West Virginia, but the deer at Oglebay have been hand-fed for years, trusting humans, and are not wild...

West Virginia Deer News and Information Archive by Topic:  Population and Management, Deer in the News, Disease, Suburban, Transportation

West Virginia Deer:    Numbers from the 2023-24 deer hunt were down by 7.8% from the previous season.  The state doesn't report a formal deer population estimates, but has reported estimates to the National Deer Association and Outdoor Life.   Outdoor Life reported a deer population of 420,000 in 2021, 500,000 in 2020, 550,000 in 2017, and 800,000 to 900,000 in 2012. The National Deer Association reports a 2019 population of 542,500, 595,000 in 2015, and 761,000 in 2005.  The peak deer kill from the hunt was 218,253 in 2001 when the population was around 900,000 compared to the 2021 kill of 105,278 with a population around 420,000.

The 2023 hunting outlook and mast survey expected "The total white – tailed deer harvest in 2023 should be similar to that of 2022.  Average red, black, and scarlet oak production will mean that deer will not have to move as much to find food, especially early in the season..."  However, the state reported the hunt was down by 7% s in 2023. The decline was attributed in part to bad weather and average mast. At the start of the 2023 deer hunt, Brett Skelly, the DNR’s deer project leader, reported that about half of the annual mortality was happening outside of the season attributable to deer that die in automobile collisions, deer that are killed by coyotes and deer that succumb to viral or bacterial infections.  

The increase in the 2022 deer hunt was attributed to favorable mast and weather conditions for hunters.  The 2022 deer outlook from the Department of Natural Resources expected population conditions similar to 2021.   The increase in the 2022 deer hunt was attributed to favorable mast and weather conditions for hunters.  The 2022 deer outlook from the Department of Natural Resources expected population conditions similar to 2021. 

The very mild 2019-20 winter resulting in higher fawn numbers was offset somewhat by a poor oak production in 2020.  Good mast harvest in 2021 reduced the distance deer travel for food contibuting to the 1.5 percent decline in the 2021 deer hunt. The population in 2020 is thought to be about the same as 2019, although there was a sharp drop in the 2019 buck kill.  The 96 wildlife management areas (WMA) in the state total 1.4 million acres, 8% of the land in the state.

Another mild 2018-19 winter allowed for higher fawn survival into 2019.  The 2019 population was thought to be about the same as 2018 and approximately stable since 2015.  An abundant red acorn crop reduced deer movement and a late-summer outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease reduced deer populations in 2019.  

An outbreak of EHD took a toll on some area populations in 2017.  Rising coyote populations are reducing deer populations throughout the southeast.  A good acorn crop contributed to the 4 percent decline in the 2017 deer hunt as deer moved around less.  Another good crop in 2018.  The deer population had been on an upward trend because of a good acorn crop and reduced hunting of antlerless deer in 2014 and into 2015.  Also, a 30 percent reduction in the buck kill for 2014 triggered automatic limit reductions in several counties.   2017 West Virginia Mast Survey and Hunting OutlookMature forests reducing deer habitat have contributed to a general declining population trend.  

For 2016 with a relatively stable population, antlerless deer permits were increased to moderate population growth and reduce predation of fawns.  A good acorn crop in 2016 contributed to a lower deer harvest as deer did not move around as much for food, fewer acorns in 2015 increased the chances of a hunter finding deer, increasing the harvest.  More than 40 deer farms in 2016.

About 300,000 deer hunters in 2014, about 330,000 in 2015 and 2016.  A snowy winter in 2013-14 reduced food sources.  The deer harvest declined by 34 percent in 2014, a newly appointed DNR chief has a goal of rebuilding the deer population.   The good acorn crop that provided ample food and weather conditions, including high winds on opening day along with rain and snow during the 2014 season are also thought to have contributed to the decline. The population has been on a managed decline since the mid-2000's after the population peaked in the early 2000s at high densities.

The poor acorn crop in 2013, forcing deer to move around more contributed to the 14 percent increase in the deer harvest.  The acorn crop was also very low in 2012. The 2013  harvest increase also reflects an increase in the antlerless deer harvest designed to reduce the deer population.   In 2013, 76 percent of counties were still above population goals. Deer populations are down by as much as one half in the high mountain areas where reduced logging has resulted in a more mature forests and less deer browse.   

A population estimate of 650,000 in 2009,  a rough estimate of 890,000 in 2004.  A state document provides these estimates:  700,000 to 1,000,000 in 1994, 937,770 in 1990, 133,990 in 1970.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first discovered in a road killed deer in 2005 in Hampshire County. The disease continues to spread slowly throughout the state with 29 of 591 tissue samples testing positive in the county in 2014.  By 2016 the disease had spread to Hardy County.  By 2017 one-quarter to one-third of deer in Hampshire County were infected.  A total of 183 positives into 2015, 235 into early 2017, 332 into early 2018, a total of 376 for the 2018 hunting season.  A 2024 study reported CWD was the highest cause of deer mortality in Hampshire County and a new detection in Jefferson County.

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD)  An outbreak in 2017.

Source: of graph:  WDNR   

History   White-tailed deer numbers began to decline in the 1720s when settlers moved into the area. By the 1840s they were scarce in some areas and nearly extirpated in the early 1900sIn 1909, the Legislature passed a bill that made it illegal to sell or ship game out of state. The bill also outlawed the killing of doe deer.  By 1910 there were only about 1,000 deer remaining in the state.

 A restocking effort began, the herd slowly grew, so deer hunting was closed in 1924 - 1926.  As a result of over hunting, deer populations declined and were becoming somewhat scarce by 1941.  A large deer kill in 1951 depleted the herd there were large changes in the deer harvest over the next decades as the state varied policy from buck only to hunter's choice.  

The DNR has encouraged balanced demographics in the herd.  In the early 1990s 70 percent of the bucks taken in the firearm season were 1.5 years, by 2012 bucks of 2.5 years or older were 58 percent.  The increased doe kill starting in 1999 started a downward trend of the population into 2017 amplified by maturing hardwood forests that reduce deer food.  Antlered deer were about 50 percent of the 2013 harvest, the goal in 2014 was to increase anterless deer killed somewhat to reduce the population.  Source: Keeping today’s deer hunting in perspective


Elk  Once numerous, the last elk was seen in the state in 1875.  A result of overhunting and habitat loss.  A population of 85 in 2020.    A restocking program has brought deer in from Kentucky and Arizona since 2016.  Brainworm killed about 30 percent of the deer transported from Arizona in 2019.  The elk have proven to be a popular tourist attraction.  At the start of 2024 there were 100 elk with 40 more on the way from Kentucky.  In early 2024, 127 elk with more on the way.

Bear  An estimated 12,000 to 14,000 in 2019.  About 500 in the mid to late 1970s.

Wolf:  The last eastern wolf was shot and killed in Webster County in 1897.

Other useful links: 

Whitetail Deer Project

West Virginia Wildlife Management Area Maps   - Elk Management Plan [PDF]

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources