2018-2019 Hunting data released

Published 11:51 am Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, (VDGIF), recently released preliminary figures regarding the state’s harvest data on Bear, Deer and Fall Turkey for the 2018-19 hunting season.

According to a recent press release from the VDGIF, “The Virginia bear harvests reflected a slight decrease but still the second highest harvest of bears ever in Virginia; deer harvests reflected a slight increase, and the turkey harvests remained about the same. According to Dr. Gray Anderson, Wildlife Division Chief, “The annual variation in harvest is normal and most populations are healthy and on-track with long-range management plan objectives.” These harvest data are used to inform future regulatory decisions.

The release indicated that 2,715 black bears were harvested across the state during the season, making it the second highest harvest recorded in Virginia. The 2017–2018 season stands as the highest black bear harvest in Virginia with 2,861 recorded. The sharp increase in bear harvest numbers over previous years is directly attributed to the introduction of a 3-day early bear season.

Lunenburg County recorded an impressive 50 bears harvested for the season.

The VDGIF press release posted deer harvest numbers for the 2018–2019 hunting season that were largely unchanged from the previous season’s numbers.

During the deer hunting season that ended Jan. 5, hunters harvested 190,636 deer in Virginia. This total included 96,239 antlered bucks, 12,342 button bucks, and 82,055 does. Does accounted for 43 percent of the harvest, VADGIF records show. Archery season harvest was 26,676 deer and muzzleloader hunters took 43,749. Rifle and shotgun season harvest preliminary numbers stand at 120,074.

Lunenburg deer harvest data recorded 1,497 total deer harvestedfor the season. Antlered deer harvested were 776, male fawns 94 and 627 does.

The VDGIF continues to test for and monitor the potential progress of two diseases that appear in the Virginia deer population.

The first is Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) according to official reports, “As of September 2018, the Department has diagnosed 39 cases of CWD since 2009. 13,000+ deer have been tested since 2002. Statistics show that confirmed cases of CWD have been confined to Frederick and Shenandoah counties.”

Hemorrhagic Disease, (HD) is described by the VDGIF as “… the most important infectious disease of white–tailed deer in the Southeast United States and in Virginia, and outbreaks occur every year.”

The report explains that, “HD is caused by two closely related viruses, epizootic hemorrhagic disease or bluetongue virus. There are two subtypes of HD virus and 5 subtypes of Bluetongue virus in North America.” The disease features of the viruses are so similar the term hemorrhagic disease is used when the virus is not specified. HD is transmitted by biting midges or what are commonly known as sand gnats or “no–see–ums.”

HD typically occurs from mid-August through October. Historical data from the VDGIF points to three potential environmental predictors of HD outbreaks in eastern Virginia. They are mild winters, hot summers and a June drought.

Outward signs of HD infection include depressed behavior and a swollen head or neck. Dying animals have often been found lying near water or moist, cool areas, a likely effort to cool off the high fever typical of HD. Suspected cases should be reported to the VDGIF office that is nearest you. Report the approximate location of the animal.

“Do not contact, disturb, kill or remove the animal,” the VDGIF advises. The area office telephone number is (434) 525-7522. Other area office numbers can be found at www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/diseases/hd/.

The data released for the 2018–2019 fall turkey season was virtually identical to the previous season, listing a difference of only five harvested turkey. A total of 2,363 turkey were taken in Virginia during the season.

Lunenburg recorded 16 turkey harvested during a 2018-2019 season. This is a 6 percent decrease from last season.

The numbers reflect a trend of steady turkey harvest decline recorded over recent years. However, data indicates that, “… Virginia’s turkey population is close to record levels for modern times. While fall harvest fluctuations are due to a number of environmental variables, probably the single most influential factor is a consistent decline in overall interest in fall Turkey hunting.”

Gary Norman, Leader of the Wild Turkey Project, said, “despite efforts to promote interest in fall turkey hunting, the long-term decline of fall turkey hunters and turkey hunting effort may be having the biggest influence on the relatively low fall kill. Other states have seen similar decreases in fall turkey hunting interest by sportsmen.”