Hunting data for the area released

Published 2:34 pm Thursday, February 28, 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 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 press release indicated that a total of 2,715 bears were harvested across the state this past 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 kills recorded. The sharp increase in bear harvest numbers over previous years is directly attributed to the introduction of a three-day-early bear season.

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Prince Edward County recorded 23 black bear harvested during the 2018–2019 season. Buckingham recorded 43 and Cumberland County recorded 11. Brian Atkins, a well-known Prince Edward county native, Farmville business owner and life-long experienced hunter recently spoke with The Farmville Herald about the steadily increasing bear harvest numbers. “I think it has a lot to do with the new early season. My son got his first bear last season. This year during the early dog/gun season, we took four bears just off of my farm. The black bear population has been rising, though, too. You see black bear around here now pretty regularly in places you would have never seen them 15 years ago,” he said.

The VDGIF press release posted deer harvest numbers for the 2018–2019 hunting 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.

Prince Edward County recorded 1,272 deer harvested according to VDGIF data. Of these 777 were antlered bucks, 62 were male fawns and 433 were does. Does accounted for 34 percent of the harvest.

Buckingham County recorded 2,467 harvested deer for the season. Of these 1,445 were antlered males, 155 male fawns and 867 does, which accounted for 35.1 percent of the total harvest.

In Cumberland County 2,066 deer were harvested in Cumberland County. Of these 1,031 were antlered males, 147 male fawns and 888 does, which accounted for 42.9 percent of the harvest.

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 include 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 Farmville area office telephone number is (434) 392- 9645. Other area office numbers can be found at 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.

Prince Edward County hunters harvested only 14 turkey. This is a dramatic drop of 48 percent compared to last year’s harvest of 27 birds.

Buckingham County recorded 29 fall turkeys harvested for the season. This was identical to last year’s harvest.

To the east in Cumberland County a total of 30 turkey were harvested. This number falls short of last year’s fall harvest of 37 birds. It further supports statewide data that evidences a general decline in fall turkey season in Virginia

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.”