Feeding Deer  Also see food plots  See the Latest News and Research Below

Supplemental feeding of wild deer can improve survival and increase the population, but careless feeding can kill deer or create management problems.  Do not use corn or other fermentable carbohydrates as a primary emergency deer food.  Deer are routinely killed this way by people trying to help.  Examples below.   Deer are browsers and have adapted to eating a wide variety of food sources, but their efficient stomachs require time to adapt to a new food source. A hungry deer that has not eaten corn recently can die within a day if it comes across a large pile of corn that it devours [bloat and acidosis].  There are over 10,000 deer farms in the U.S. where deer are fed products formulated for deer such as Monster Meal Feeder Pellets and Purina Antler Advantage, with a protein content of about 16 to 20 percent, which are suitable as an emergency feed.  Other similar pelletized products that can be used are available for rabbits, goats, or horses with main ingredients of alfalfa hay, soybean meal, distillers dried grains,  rice bran, and corn (less than 25 percent) with protein of at least 12 percent.  Goat (chow) feed is widely available.  Oats are a preferred supplement.  The state of Maine has previously used a mix of oats and barley, but has recently increased the use of alfalfa hay.  

Corn is often used as a food supplement, but is low in protein and nutritional value.  It may result in acidosis if introduced too quickly, so should be used sparingly as an energy supplement such as for does trying to feed new fawns.  Corn is high in starch so should not be used as a primary food source.  Arkansas Game and Fish warns that in addition to poor nutritional content, "commercially sold 'deer corn' does not meet the requirements of corn sold for livestock."   C.O.B. (corn, oats, and barley) is readily available, but 
has protein of only about 8 percent and is high in corn content so must be introduced slowly.  Goat chow usually has properties similar to deer chow, about 16 percent protein, alfalfa is a primary ingredient.  Second cut or later alfalfa is commonly used, but deer also need time to adapt to this food source.  Deer can starve with a stomach full of alfalfa they cannot digest.  Deer enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables such as apples, grapes, small plums, cherries, pears, pumpkin, carrots, snap peas, tomatoes, squash, watermelon, honey locust, persimmons, and sumac.  As with people, individual tastes vary.  Acorns and other mast are an important food source.

The Michigan DNR permitted supplemental feeding during the severe winter of 2013-14 and provided these guidelines: "Feed can consist only of grains, second cut alfalfa and clover, and pelletized food materials containing no animal protein. The feed must be scattered on the ground at a depth not to exceed three inches.   If individuals choose to feed corn, the DNR recommends it be mixed as a minor component, 25 percent or less of the recipe, which should help protect deer from dying by acidosis..." For the supplemental feeding of 2017 the DNR added this advice: "Although deer make use of apples, potatoes, sugar beets, carrots, and many other foods during summer and fall, these provide little benefit for deer during winter conditions..." The Wisconsin DNR advises that for winter feeding, if formulated deer products are not available then "rabbit, goat or horse pellets which contain at least 12% protein can be used... After the formulated deer food mixtures, oats are preferred over all other supplemental foods... do not feed [alfalfa] hay when deer have encountered low food sources... in winter ... " Cutting twigs and branches down so deer can reach them is effective in winter.

Feeding deer may increase the transmission of chronic wasting disease, a growing concern [map]Reducing food pile density can reduce transmission probability.  The Mississippi DWFP recommends using an above ground covered feeder, an example, or stationary spin cast feeder, example.  Food should be distributed, otherwise dominate deer may prevent younger and smaller deer from eating.  Feeding deer is illegal in some jurisdictions.  Planting food plots is an effective, safe, and legal way to support local deer populations.  Good trees include pears, apples, crab apples, persimmons, aspen, chestnuts, white oaks and red oaks, ash, aspen, maple, popular, willow and chestnut.  Also soybeans, dogwood, pokeweed, aster, ragweed, goldenrod,  and honeysuckle.  Deer have been routinely fed over thousands of years.  Ancient peoples managed deer and their habitat as an important natural resource.   Government agencies have opened feed sites to entice deer away from farm fields and other locations.
News

Feeding deer corn in Virginia September 8, 2020 Patch.com
... deer corn commonly contains aflatoxins at levels well above the minimum allowed for human consumption. It does not affect the deer, but is fatal to other wildlife, especially birds ...

Feeding ban reminder July 24, 2020 Minnesota, DNR News
Six additional counties were added to deer feeding and attractant bans on July 1. Feeding and attracting deer is not allowed in Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Rice, Scott and Washington counties. These bans are an important part of the DNR’s response to CWD — limiting close contact between deer helps prevent the spread of the fatal disease. Learn more about what you need to do to help our wild deer, and a full list of the counties included, on the deer feeding ban webpage.

... Those found guilty of an offense would be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor for the first offense, and a first-degree misdemeanor for subsequent offenses. A fourth-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, and a first-degree misdemeanor carries a jail sentence of as many as 180 days ...

Do deer eat carrots? Deer can't stop eating them! - July 13, 2020


... Following the discovery of chronic wasting disease in a wild deer in Dakota County in March, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will expand current deer feeding and attractant bans to include Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Rice, Scott and Washington counties ...

PA Game Commission explains CWD deer-feeding ban proposal; petition opposes it June 7, 2020 Pennsylvania, LancasterOnline
... added to the plan in April calls for statewide bans on feeding deer ... there are no studies that have proven such bans reduce the prevalence of CWD [chronic wasting disease] ...

Six Metro Counties Added to Deer Feeding and Attractant Ban June 5, 2020 Minnesota, Belle Plaine Herald
... Following the discovery of chronic wasting disease in a wild deer in Dakota County in March, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will expand current deer feeding and attractant bans ... “To prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease, it’s important to limit close contact among deer,” ...

... "The North Mississippi Zone and the Issaquena Zone ... now surveillance zones ... Supplemental feeding, salt licks and mineral licks remain banned in the four management zones. In areas outside the management zones, but within the surveillance zones, hunters may resume supplemental feeding and the use of salt and mineral licks ...

DWR asks public not to feed wildlife after deer found dead from chronic wasting disease April 6, 2020 Utah, St. George News
... it is not illegal to feed wildlife ... two mule deer have been found dead in the yards of Moab residents. Both of these deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease ... Feeding deer can cause large groups of them to congregate into one area, increasing the chance of the disease spreading from one animal to the next ...

Protein supplementation for whitetail deer - February 9, 2020 Louisiana


DIFW's Deer Feeding Report and Recommendations February 3, 2020 Maine, Bangor Daily News
... Last year, we provided $18,000 of feeding support to 51 feeders. We used to use only oats and barley as a mix, as recommended by the state deer biologist at the time, but now we saw that alfalfa bales have been used in Canada. Last year, we experimented with using 38 round bales of alfalfa for feeding deer. This year ACCA bought 120 bales of alfalfa hay...

... City Manager Jeff Looney emphasized that officials aren’t telling residents they can’t feed the deer.  “They want people to still feed the deer by hand in spreading of the feed for them,” he said. “You can do that. They want to discontinue the automatic feeders.” ...

Fayetteville, City calls on residents to obey state's law, stop feeding deer December 30, 2019 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
... a state law passed this year prohibiting the baiting and feeding of deer. The law is intended to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease.  Baiting or feeding deer causes the animals to unnaturally congregate ...

State announces new deer and moose feeding regulations December 27, 2019 New York, Buffalo News
... new measures Friday to curb unnecessary feeding of wild deer and moose but allow for the use of tick-control devices designed to treat deer...  the new regulations ...  Regulatory Impact Statement ...

How we manage our 4 poster feeder moving the feeder to prevent CWD transmission - November 22, 2019


123 Deer & Turkeys of the Brownville's Food Pantry For Deer


Risk of Inappropriate Feeding 

The Buck Stops Here: Don't Feed Deer Deadly Corn February 20, 2020 Rhode Island, ecoRI news
... a natural-resource scientist at the University of Rhode Island... His inspection revealed that this wasn’t a hunting fatality or natural death; the deer’s stomach looked as if it had exploded. The animal’s stomach was enlarged and bursting open with partially digested corn grains...

... doe died from having a full stomach of corn that led to acute rumen acidosis... a necropsy ... discovered the animal's stomach was full of corn ... many animals die quickly from the acid's immediate effects, while others may live longer, but die from liver or brain damage...

Elk found dead from eating corn in northern Wisconsin January 10, 2020 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
... An elk was found dead Jan. 2 in northern Wisconsin after it ate corn put out by a landowner in a misguided attempt to help wildlife, according to the Department of Natural Resources.  The animal died from rumen acidosis ...

Discovery of dead deer shows danger of feeding wildlife March 21, 2019 Colorado, OutThere Colorado
... A dead deer was recently found in the San Luis Valley with stomach contents containing corn and grain... 

Wildlife Watch February 5, 2019, Vermont, WCAX
...  finding a dozen dead deer. They say someone fed the animals corn to help them during the cold, winter months. But deer don't have the proper bacteria in their gut to digest corn in the middle of winter, so they bloated and died...

Fish and Game on Deer Feeding April 25, 2015 New Hampshire, SeaCoastOnine, Glenn Normandeau, Executive Director, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department
... these deer died from eating food they were not prepared to digest at this time of year, a condition known as enterotoxemia ... most likely the corn ... They [the families who feed the deer] just didn't know any better ... It will not happen when deer are fed from late fall, as their digestive system will remain conditioned to handle the feed... 

Feeding winter wildlife can have deadly consequences February 2, 2014 Pennsylvania, Altoona Mirror
... Test results revealed the trophy 6-by-7- point bull died of rumen acidosis, a condition caused by the sudden introduction of carbohydrates into the animal's system... Game Commission sources aren't sure how the bull elk ingested the corn that killed it, but it is probable the grain was put out by a person or persons as supplemental winter food ...

South-county wildlife feeding is going well February 15, 2017 Idaho, Idaho Mountain Express
... feeding of deer and elk at 17 sites in southern Blaine County ... some deer have been dying by eating alfalfa hay at elk-feeding sites. “Their stomachs are stuffed with alfalfa—they just can’t digest it,” ... [need time to adjust to this new food source so not good when deer have had little and different food as in winter]

To feed or not to feed? October 15, 2018 Louisiana, The Daily Iberian
... State Department of Wildlife and Fisheries game biologists recommend that deer hunters refrain from using supplemental feed to attract deer to the areas they hunt. The use of supplemental feed increases the chance of spreading diseases, including chronic wasting disease, among deer and other wildlife using bait stations ...

New DNR rules nix baiting and feeding deer November 9, 2018 Michigan, Petoskey News-Review 
... In response to diseases that are spreading throughout the state and impacting deer [bovine tuberculosis, chronic wasting disease] ... baiting and feeding deer will be prohibited in the Lower Peninsula in 2019...

'Dr. Deer' Addresses Sportsmen on CWD and Herd Culling July 18, 2019 Pennsylvania, Morrisons Cove Herald 
 ...One surprising statement he [Dr. James Kroll] made is that supplemental feeding, which is now discouraged in Pennsylvania, could possibly be helpful in the battle against CWD since it could spread deer out...

Research

 "A review of the population dynamics of mule deer and black‐tailed deer Odocoileus hemionus in North America." Forrester, Tavis D., and Heiko U. Wittmer, Mammal Review 43.4 (2013): 292-308.
... "Supplemental feeding during winter over large areas resulted in decreased mortality due to all causes, including predation, even though there was no evidence that predators were preying on mule deer in poor conditions in control areas" p. 302

Effect of Enhanced Nutrition on Mule Deer Population Rate of Change. Wildlife Monographs, 2009.  Chad J. Bishop, Gary C. White, David J. Freddy, Bruce E. Watkins, Thomas R. Stephenson
... We measured annual survival and fecundity of adult females and survival of fawns, then estimated population rate of change as a function of enhanced nutrition. Pregnancy and fetal rates of adult females were high and did not vary in response to treatment. Fetal and neonatal survival rates increased in response to treatment, although the treatment effect on neonatal survival was marginal. Overwinter rates of fawn survival increased for treatment deer by 0.16–0.31 depending on year and fawn sex, and none of the 95% confidence intervals associated with the effects overlapped zero....


Deer: to feed, or not to feed December 17, 2012 Utah Division of Wildlife, Darren DeBloois
... there are times when we feel that feeding deer during the winter is needed. I am guided in this decision by the Division’s wildlife feeding policy, which boils down to this: we (DWR officials) will feed deer during unusually severe winter conditions. We step in when feeding can provide increased survival rates of females ensuring that the breeding segment of the population will not be decimated. Taking action by saving these animals increases the likelihood that the population will recover quicker from a severe weather event.

The importance of intrinsic traits, environment and human activities in modulating stress levels in a wild ungulate JPV Santos, P Acevedo, J Carvalho, J Queirós… - Ecological Indicators, 2018
... Evidence was also found that supplementary feeding practices may mitigate the negative effects of reduced food availability in overabundant deer populations...

Impact of winter enclosures on the gut bacterial microbiota of red deer in the Bavarian Forest National Park  S Menke, M Heurich, M Henrich, K Wilhelm, S Sommer - Wildlife Biology, 2019
... To mitigate this human–wildlife conflict, conservation management in central Europe involves luring red deer into fenced winter-feeding sites. The supplementary food provided in these so-called winter enclosures strongly differs from the natural diet of red deer... We detected sequences with high similarities to known red deer pathogens in both study groups, but their relative abundances were low, which suggests that the population of red deer of the Bavarian Forest National Park is healthy...


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