Feeding deer could cause disease, digestion problems and human-deer conflicts, say Virginia game officials. (PATRICK PLEUL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Although the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries frowns on feeding deer regardless of the time of year, it is officially illegal to feed the animals from Sept. 1 to the first week of January — a period that coincides with hunting season.

“Most feeding is done by well-intentioned people who think that providing food for deer will help them survive better or produce better quality antlers,” says the department’s Web site.

But the trade-off for a nice set of antlers isn’t worth it, officials say. Risks include an increase in illnesses such as tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease, habitat damage caused by overpopulation, potentially fatal digestion issues, and altercations between humans and deer that can happen when the animals get a little too comfortable around people.