Effective July 1, it is now illegal to possess or use deer lures that contain natural deer urine or other bodily fluids while in pursuit of game in Virginia. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) instituted the rule change this month as part of its increased vigilance against chronic wasting disease (CWD), which can be spread by infectious proteins in deer urine, feces, or saliva.
“The VDGIF is taking a pro-active approach on this issue and has banned possession and use until it is proven that prions are not spread in commercial deer urine products, rather than continue to risk introducing CWD to new areas until it is confirmed that urine attractants do spread prions,” the agency stated in a press release.
The agency continued in saying that commercial products are often not treated—either chemically or by heat—to destroy infectious proteins, which are incredibly resilient and slow to degrade in the wild. The VDGIF noted that many companies that make these products are also located in states with a history of CWD.
“Deer in Virginia that taste or sniff these products may actually be exposing themselves to CWD harbored by deer living hundreds of miles away that were used to collect the infected urine,” the VDGIF said.
Products that contain deer urine can still be purchased or sold in the state, but hunters are barred from carrying them if they are in the field scouting, attracting, or hunting deer. As an alternative, hunters can use synthetic products until the ban is either lifted due to new research, or becomes permanent. Although attractor scents are widely popular in Virginia—as in other states—many hunters say they agree with the regulation change it if it would mean a safer future for the state’s deer.
“Not only are deer an important part of Virginia’s natural heritage, they are also important to the economy,” said the VDGIF.
Statistics from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Shooting Sports Foundation show that deer hunting generates more than $600 million yearly for the state, as well as employing more than 20,000 people.