Feeding of wildlife in some parts of Virginia is illegal
It's important to be aware of how to handle wild animals in your area. There are certain rules and regulations about how to interact with them.
David Kocka, a District Wildlife Biologist with the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, said you may see squirrels, rabbits, birds, deer, turkeys, and even bears this season in the Valley.
He said many people who have bird feeders might find other animals eating that food outside.
"In our mind, we're putting out a bird feeder and birds will come there," said Kocka. "Well, wildlife doesn't read our books, they don't read our signs saying, 'This is just there for the birds.'"
Based on the time of year and the type of animal, there are different laws on if and when you can feed them.
"This time of year, it's very important, it's not only that we don't encourage the feeding of wildlife, there are specific animals that you're not allowed to feed any time," said Kocka. "There are other animals that you can only feed certain times of the year in Virginia."
You can't directly or indirectly feed bears any time. It's a problem if they become habituated to those food items and creates a situation with possible danger to people.
There is also a concern of disease transmission when you feed wild animals.
In four counties – Frederick, Warren, Clarke, and Shenandoah – VDGIF is managing Chronic Wasting Disease in deer, and you cannot feed them at any time. It is also prohibited in the City of Winchester.
22 deer with Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, have been found in northwestern Virginia, with the first in 2009 in western Frederick County, according to the 2017-2018 Virginia Hunting & Trapping Regulations.
You cannot feed deer or elk from September 1 through the first Saturday of January statewide.
VDGIF has a wildlife hotline if you're not sure what to do when you see a wild animal. That number is 1-855-571-9003.