Virginia’s Locavore Deer Hunters

locavore-deerBy Matt Knox, Deer Project Leader, Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries

If you are a deer hunter in Virginia, there is a greater than 99% chance that you are a locavore deer hunter.  I am guessing at this point that many, maybe a majority, of Virginia deer hunters are asking themselves “What is a locavore deer hunter?” Read the rest of this article…

  • November 21st, 2016

Big Woods WMA, New Parker’s Branch Tract Open to the Public

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) announced today that it has purchased 1,965 acres in Sussex County, Virginia, adjoining the existing Big Woods Wildlife Management Area and Big Woods State Forest.  This acquisition, approved by the DGIF Board for the price of $3.8 million, supports the DGIF’s efforts to restore pine-savannah habitat and provide additional public land in an underserved area of Virginia. Read the rest of this article…

  • November 10th, 2016

2016 Acorn Production Varies By Region

shutterstock_510076396Over 200,000 hunters will take to the woods this fall in search of deer, turkey, and bear as well as a host of smaller game species.  One thing all of these hunters need to know is the importance of acorns in the diets of the game they hunt.  Acorns are a nutritious food providing protein, fat, and energy in the diets of 90 species of game and non-game animals in Virginia.  As such, they are a staple food for Virginia’s wildlife, providing important resources to meet the physical challenges of winter weather and reproduction in the following spring. Read the rest of this article…

  • November 8th, 2016

Record High Wild Turkey Population Likely to Remain Stable

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While Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ biologists believe that Virginia’s wild turkey population is at record high levels, wild turkey populations can fluctuate considerably from year-to-year.  As such, every August, many Department of Game and Inland Fisheries employees record observations of wild turkeys during their routine work travels.   Read the rest of this article…

  • November 7th, 2016

DGIF’s New Vision, Mission and Goal Statements

Agency Director Bob Duncan announced the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has updated its Agency Vision, Mission and Goal Statements.

The new Vision, Mission and Goal statements were developed by an internal Strategic Thinking Team through a comprehensive process that included input from DGIF staff, external partners, focus groups, and stakeholders.  The final review included public comment opportunities and approval by the DGIF Executive Board and Senior Leadership Team.  Read the rest of this article…

  • November 7th, 2016

Drivers: Stay Alert, Deer are on the Move

Autumn is here, and along with colorful leaves, crisp air, and shorter days, it means Virginia’s white-tailed deer will be on the move.  With daylight savings time just around the corner, many motorists will be commuting in the dark, increasing the likelihood of their vehicle colliding with a deer.  Read the rest of this article…

  • November 2nd, 2016

Special Archery Fishing Category for State Record Fish

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This HUGE carp taken by Hae Kim at Claytor Lake looks to be the largest ever shot with a bow! It weighs in at 45lbs, 7oz, with a length of 41 ¼ inches and a 30 inch girth. If certified by the State Record Fish Committee, it will become a Virginia State Record.

DGIF is now acknowledging archery taken fish for State Record recognition in a special archery fishing category.  Archery fishing, commonly known as bowfishing, is becoming increasingly popular among anglers of Virginia.  In 2014, bowfishing anglers requested that DGIF recognize fish taken by archery for State Records since the sport was growing in popularity, the sport was considered a recreational and not commercial activity, and a fishing license is required to take fish with archery gear.

The State Record Fish Review Committee with DGIF reviewed the request and determined, through a majority vote, that archery anglers should be recognized for their exceptional catches. Since the gear was completely different from traditional hook-and-line tackle, it was determined there should be an archery only category. Additionally, the agency now recognizes large catches with archery gear in the Trophy Fish Award Program.

Only species of fish that can be legally taken in public water with archery gear (bowfin and catfish below the Fall-Line, longnose gar, and common carp) may be considered for a State Record or Trophy Fish Awards.  Visit the Trophy Fish section of the DGIF website for the trophy fish size chart, rules for certifying fish, and agency contacts.

  • November 1st, 2016

Virginia, Ontario and the Loggerhead Shrike Connection

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Loggerhead Shrike banded in Smyth County, VA. Photo by Rich Bailey.

By Sergio Harding, DGIF Nongame Bird Biologist

On May 16 of this year, DGIF personnel, working with partners from the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, banded a loggerhead shrike in a pasture in Smyth County, VA.  Shrike banding is being coordinated across multiple states in order to study the connections between breeding and wintering populations of this declining species.  Although this was one of several shrikes banded in Virginia in 2016, this particular banding event was memorable because of a group of cows that had gathered nearby to watch us.  A bull in the group started huffing at us just as we were getting ready to band.  Bird in hand, we collected our equipment and retreated to the other side of a gate, away from any potential bovine interference. And so it was that this shrike got its leg bands, ‘Yellow over Dark Blue’ on the left, ‘Yellow over Silver’ on the right (YE/DB YE/SI, in banding notation).  The bird turned out to be the female of a breeding pair with an active nest.  The molt pattern in the wing feathers revealed that she was just in the second year of her life.  We took some quick measurements and released her some minutes later.  With evening setting in and our work completed, we moved on, with plans to revisit the site in the winter to see whether the bird would stick around.

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Pasture in Smyth County, VA where the shrike was banded.

However, circumstances brought this bird back into our lives a lot sooner than expected.  Last week, a biologist from Wildlife Preservation Canada was reviewing footage from a trail camera.  The camera was set up to monitor a release site for captive-bred loggerhead shrike in Ontario, Canada, where the species is endangered. And there, on an image from August 29, was the Virginia bird, sporting its ‘YE/DB YE/SI’ bands.  The release site is over 550 miles to the north of the site in Smyth County where we had banded the shrike.  This is not the first documented case of a long-distance dispersal by a loggerhead shrike after the breeding season.  However, the fact that the shrike traveled northward was completely unexpected.

This news capped an already exciting week related to loggerhead shrike:  an attentive citizen scientist captured footage in Augusta County, VA of a banded, captive-reared shrike that had been released in Ontario in late August.  This marked the third banded Ontario shrike documented in Virginia within the past 5 years, firmly establishing a link between the Canadian province and our state while simultaneously defying the odds of re-sighting this many banded birds.  This reciprocal ‘exchange’ of shrikes further highlights these connections between populations, while also raising interesting questions.  Because shrike do not spend the winter in Ontario, we expect that our Smyth County bird has already moved back south by now.  Will she return to her site in Smyth County for the winter?  You can be sure that we’ll be there looking for her, with high expectations and eyes wide open.

  • November 1st, 2016