Our Virginia Wildlife Veterinarian


The life of our state wildlife veterinarian is varied and full … and full of responsibility.

On October 22, at the Augusta County Government Building in Verona, members of our HMN Chapter were treated to a presentation by Dr. Megan Kirchgessner, who has been the Virginia state wildlife veterinarian with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for the last seven years. She finds the job both wonderful and challenging.

After trying out other fields of veterinary medicine and steadily adding to her academic resume, Dr. Megan feels she can make more of a positive impact by helping wildlife populations instead of through caring for individual animals.

Her days include meeting and consulting with diverse agencies and audiences, travel and outreach, field work in “Carhartts” to lobbying in heels.

Among many other duties, big chunks of her time are devoted to:

  • Helping to maintain the health of the aquatic life in fish hatcheries operated by the DGIF.
  • Monitoring for and implementing measures to slow the progression of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in our white-tailed deer population. Although currently confined to two counties near the West Virginia border, the number of cases is rapidly increasing.
  • Keeping on top of rabies virus infections in Virginia wildlife. Virginia consistently ranks second among all the states for having the most positive tests for rabies in wildlife, with raccoons being by far the most commonly affected. Only Texas has more.
  • Monitoring and evaluating the spread of sarcoptic mange in our American black bear population. Those affected are currently concentrated in Frederick and Shenandoah Counties, mirroring the areas with CWD in deer.

Dr. Megan’s combination of enthusiasm, energy and expertise make her a perfect fit for her job. It was a real pleasure for us to hear from her about the issues and challenges regularly confronting her and the VDGIF.

Many thanks to Dr. Megan, and to Paul Bugas and Chip Brown for organizing this presentation!

Stay tuned for an upcoming volunteer opportunity to help out at one of the CWD Check Stations located in the CWD containment area of Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke and Warren Counties, on November 17 and 24.

– Adrie Voors, Cohort II, October 2018

Top photo is of Headwaters Chapter advisor and DGIF fisheries biologist Paul Bugas, Dr. Megan Kirchgessner, and HMN Program Committee chair Chip Brown.