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Director’s Message

I have a tendency to mark my life in terms of hunting seasons, rather than years, and many of you will know what I mean by that. It’s hard to believe how fast they go by; as this edition of the hunting regulations goes to print, another spring turkey season has come and gone, and here we are again, watching the summer months pass and getting ready for the kick-off of another fall hunting season.

And what great hunting opportunities Virginia has to offer. As with many hunters, I watch the programs and read the articles about hunts in other states. I make plans in my head for distant hunts that never seem to come to fruition, either because I never make the time or my budget won’t allow it. But across the seasons, opportunity for opportunity, it’s very difficult to beat all that we enjoy right here in the Commonwealth.

This year will see an especially exciting event, our first modern elk hunt. Though a small hunt, it’s significant in marking the early success of the restoration of this magnificent animal to Virginia, and also a tremendous opportunity to show the greater public the conservation benefits of hunting.

Our license lottery was entered by more than 31,000 individuals representing all 50 states. That’s approximately half a million dollars that will go right back into wildlife conservation because of the contributions of these hunters. Not to mention the economic benefits from elk viewing and associated recreation that our partners down in Southwest Virginia are already taking advantage of.

Our populations remain strong. As I write this, we are seeing the reports of yet another very productive spring turkey season for our hunters during a time period where other states have not been so lucky. Deer, bear, and small game opportunities remain abundant.

And I’ve had the good fortune to be selected for the opportunity to represent Virginia and other southeastern states on a national working group focused on benefiting our waterfowl through conservation efforts in the Canadian nesting grounds, where the birds we see migrate from. Set the time aside on your calendar for the fall now, get out in the field, hunt safe, and make sure to take the time to introduce someone new this season.

Ryan Brown, Executive Director, DWR

Spotted Skunk Information Needed

Our Department would like to know if you have seen the animal in this photograph. The Eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius), also known as a “civet cat,” is one of two species of skunks found in Virginia. Most people are familiar with the common striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) that is statewide in distribution. The spotted skunk, however, is lesser known and generally found only in the western portion of the state. They are small, slender animals, usually not much larger than a squirrel (1 to 2½ pounds) and noticeably smaller than most striped skunks. The glossy black fur has four to six broken white stripes along the back and sides that resemble “spots.” The tail usually has a white tip and the head often has an inverted triangular white patch above the nose. The status of spotted skunks in Virginia is largely unknown, but populations are believed to have declined precipitously during the last half of the 20th century. Loss of suitable habitat has almost certainly contributed to this decline, but may not completely explain the spotted skunk’s decrease in numbers. Please note that it is illegal to shoot or trap spotted skunks (unless they are causing damage) and their pelts may not be sold. If you have information regarding occurrences of spotted skunks in Virginia, particularly trail camera photos or other verifiable evidence, please contact biologist manager Matthew Overstreet at (434) 525-7522 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Virginia’s Wildlife Restoration Program and You

Hunters and trappers create many opportunities for Virginians to enjoy exceptional hunting, trapping, and wildlife watching. Through the Federal Assistance in Wildlife & Sport Fish Restoration program, you help the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources make wildlife-oriented outdoor recreation even better each time you buy a firearm, ammunition, or a hunting or trapping license.

When you buy hunting-related equipment, a portion of the excise tax levied on the manufacturer goes to the Federal Assistance in Wildlife Restoration program. Virginia currently receives approximately $19.5 million each year from this program, which funds a large portion of the Department’s habitat management and wildlife population research projects.

Feral Hogs

Feral hogs (wild hogs, wild pigs, wild boar, or Russian boar) are designated as a nuisance species in Virginia and are defined as “any hog that is wild or for which no proof of ownership can be made.” Feral hogs have been found to destroy turkey, grouse, and quail nests. They can also prey on deer fawns, destroy sensitive wetland habitat, contaminate waterways, and compete with our native wildlife for food resources. Feral hogs carry numerous diseases that can affect wildlife, domestic animals, and humans.

If feral hogs or hog damage are observed, or if feral hogs are harvested or trapped on private or public property, we ask you to make a report by calling our toll-free Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline (1-855-571-9003). It is illegal to transport live feral hogs or to release feral hogs to the wild in Virginia. Any feral hog trapped must be immediately killed at the trap site.

Attention Rabbit Hunters

DWR is closely monitoring the status of a highly infectious virus of rabbits, known as rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHDV2). RHDV2 is not a human health concern. The virus causes significant mortality in wild and domestic rabbits and was detected for the first time in North American wild rabbits in the southwestern United States in 2020. While RHDV2 has not been detected in Virginia, spread across the U.S. is anticipated. RHDV2 outbreaks typically involve at least three dead rabbits of any age in a small, localized area, over a period of less than seven days. Most infected rabbits are in good body condition with no obvious wounds at the time of death. Bright red blood may be observed around the nose. Actions that can help minimize the introduction into or spread of RHDV2 within Virginia include:

  • Reporting multiple dead rabbits fitting the description above to the nearest DWR regional office
  • IMPORTANT! Per regulation, properly disposing of all portions of rabbits harvested in Virginia not saved for human consumption via burial (at least two feet), incineration, or double-bagging and placing in trash for transport to a landfill
  • IMPORTANT! Per regulation, fully dressing (skin, feet, head, and internal organs removed) all rabbits harvested out-of-state before importing into Virginia (rabbits harvested on out-of-state properties that span the Commonwealth’s boundary will not be considered imported and should be handled as described for rabbits harvested in Virginia)
  • Wearing gloves when dressing rabbits and avoiding contact with pet rabbits before showering and changing clothes after handling wild rabbits

Reducing Lead Exposure

Lead poisoning of eagles, hawks, and other avian scavengers following ingestion of hunter-harvested game carcasses and gut piles is a clinical condition observed with increasing frequency in these species.

Why is there lead in carcasses and gut piles?

Bullets, particularly from high-powered rifles, can leave fragments of lead anywhere from 2 to 18 inches away from the wound tract. Up to 55% of these lead fragments can be embedded in internal organs that are routinely left in the field when hunters dress the animal. In California and Wyoming, 90% of tested deer gut piles were contaminated with lead fragments.

What happens to scavenging birds that ingest lead from a carcass or gut pile?

Birds with lead poisoning may exhibit seizures, paralysis, inability to fly, droopy head or wings, or death. Birds may consume a toxic amount of lead in a single exposure or may gradually increase their levels to a toxic point via multiple smaller exposures over a long period of time. Once lead reaches toxic levels, affected birds will die without medical treatment, which is not practical.

What can hunters do to minimize lead exposure in wildlife and humans?

As dedicated conservationists, hunters can reduce lead exposure by using non-toxic, non-lead ammunition, such as copper or copper alloys. Burying or removing gut piles from the field can also reduce lead intake by scavengers. Carcass parts should be buried or double-bagged and taken to a landfill. Buried materials should be covered with rocks or brush to prevent access by scavengers. Human exposure can be reduced by liberally trimming meat from around the wound tract and avoiding consumption of internal organs.

Spring Turkey Hunters Needed For Survey!

For years the Department has conducted a statewide survey of spring turkey hunters to collect their observations and opinions, but participation has been declining. Survey results help the Department with many wild turkey conservation issues. Participants receive an annual report. To participate, send your name and mailing address to [email protected] with “turkey survey” in the subject line.

Virginia Wildlife Crime Line

Since its inception in October 1986, the Virginia Wildlife Crime Line has become a valuable tool in the enforcement of the Commonwealth’s game, fish, and boat laws. As awareness of this program increases, so do the number of calls to report violations. The program has generated thousands of reported wildlife crime tips that have resulted in over a thousand arrests and over $80,000 in approved rewards. Reward payments are approved and funded through the Virginia Sportsman Reward Fund, Inc. Their mission is to promote the enforcement of hunting, fishing, and boating laws in Virginia by supporting the Wildlife Crime Line in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. You can help support this effort by sending a tax-deductible donation to: Virginia Wildlife Crime Line, P.O. Box 90778, Henrico, VA 23228-0778.

Report a Wildlife Crime

If you know someone who kills wildlife out of season or over the game limit, help the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. catch the individual and stop others from following that path. If you observe a violation, call the toll-free Virginia Wildlife Crime Line number at (800) 237-5712, e-mail [email protected], or text DWRTIP plus your tip to 847411.

Hunters for the Hungry

Our hope is that you will consider helping the Hunters for the Hungry program. We would ask you as a hunter, if you are able, to consider donating to help us feed those who struggle with hunger. There are two ways to donate:

First you can donate a deer, or multiple deer. If you are blessed in your hunting efforts, your deer can be donated to us through participating processors and / or collection sites all across Virginia. These donated deer are professionally processed and the venison distributed to local feeding programs Statewide at no cost helping men, women, and children who struggle with hunger.

Second, if you are able, please contribute financially to help us pay the processing costs for the donated deer. Financial gifts are a blessing to our feeding efforts. In 2003, legislation honoring our program’s founder David Horne was passed enabling hunters to voluntarily make a donation of any amount when they purchase their hunting licenses. You can also donate through our website.

No financial donations are required to donate deer to our program; however, for every $1.00 hunters contribute we are able to process and distribute 3.2 servings of venison to those in need as well as to promote our hunting heritage in a positive way.

Since 1991, our program, through the generous support of many hunters and non-hunters working together, has been able to process and distribute over 7.5 million pounds of venison to feeding programs throughout our State. This volume of meat equates to over 30.3 million quarter pound servings!

For more information about our program, to learn how you can get involved, or to donate please call 1-800-352-4868 or visit our website at or you can write us at P.O. Box 304, Big Island, VA 24526

Please consider helping us in some way to help those who hunger.

• If you are asked to pay any part of the processing fees for a donated deer please contact us.

We need your help!

Grouse Hunting Survey

The Department annually monitors fall populations of ruffed grouse by surveying avid grouse hunter success rates flushing and harvesting grouse. Grouse populations have been declining so we are very interested in getting more help with this survey. If you are an avid grouse hunter and are willing to participate please consider joining the survey. Hunters are asked to provide information on the number of grouse they flush and kill on a daily basis. In addition, we ask cooperators to send us some tail and wing feathers so we can estimate age and sex ratios of hunter-killed birds. All survey instructions and materials will be provided. The Department provides cooperators with a summary report at the end of the season. To participate, send your name and mailing address to [email protected] with “grouse survey” in the subject line.

Quail Hunting Survey

Please consider joining our quail hunter cooperator survey. Help us keep records on wild quail hunting success rates and habitats where quail are being found. Contact Marc Puckett at: [email protected]