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.  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 Purina AntlerMax with a protein content of about 16 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 with protein of at least 12 percent.  Goat (chow) feed is widely available.  Oats are a preferred supplement.

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.  Use of less than 25 percent corn is recommended.  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, especially in winter when 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, but these provide little nutrition in winter.  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 or stationary spin cast feeder.  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.  Deer have been routinely fed over thousands of years.  Ancient peoples managed deer and their habitat as an important natural resource.   
News

  Wild deer thoroughly enjoys being hand fed watermelon April 3, 2019 Ontario, Rumble on MSN.com
... This man decided to try his luck in a secluded forest in northern Ontario. There is a beautiful area where the deer are protected and cannot be hunted. They have learned that humans mean them no harm and they will often venture close enough for pictures...

... Algoma Fish and Game Club (AFGC) is carrying out a grassroots, volunteer effort to stave off the potential starvation of deer in the Algoma District following a long winter of excessive snowfall... shipped to the Algoma District from Rack Stacker, a feed company based in Tweed, Ont. ...

Drought-Proofing Mule Deer Herds in Texas March 14, 2019 Texas, Land.com
 ... what we can do to “drought-proof” these mule deer herds? The simple equation to the solution involves water, appropriate grazing practices, predator control and supplemental feed..,

Time to feed the elk  March 13, 2019 Idaho Mountain Express Newspaper ·
... With our weather pattern predicted to remain cold, it is unlikely that early spring will provide any bare ground for deer and elk to feed in the north portion of our county... For every elk tag sold, $1.50 goes into a fund for feed...

DNR issuing supplemental deer feeding permits in southern UP counties March 8, 2019 Michigan, UpperMichigansSource.com
... The action comes with average U.P. snow depths measured across the region nearly double that of a 15-year average for late February and March... when conditions suggest the potential exists for significant winter deer mortality, regulated supplemental feeding is authorized by the DNR ...

Caribou County bait site prevents interaction with livestock February 25, 2019 Idaho, Idaho State Journal
... The Idaho Department of Fish and Game with input from the Southeast Idaho Winter Feeding Advisory Committee (WFAC) has authorized a feed site on the west side of the Ninety Percent Range in Caribou County to bait approximately 200 elk from a landowner’s property...

With food sources covered by snow, deer take to livestock feed supplies February 23, 2019 South Dakota, AberdeenNews.com
... a couple hundred “starving” deer have taken refuge on his land... put some hay out there to eat so they don’t come into the farmyard ... putting corn out there for them to eat can have a negative affect on them,” Klosowski said. “It can make them sick or kill them...

Volunteers helping deer survive winter in Sudbury area February 22, 2019 Ontario, Sudbury Star
... volunteers together to go out to the deeryards in the area and provide them with feed and freshly cut cedar browse... a homemade icebreaker that would be used to break through the snow crust so the deer wouldn’t cut themselves...

Urban wildlife raise safety and environmental concerns in New Braunfels February 18, 2019 Texas, Community Impact Newspaper
... an ordinance that prohibits feeding wildlife  .. “Education is imperative in making sure the public knows what our local wildlife can and cannot eat, but government intervention is not necessary at all,” Botter said. “… making it a criminal act is just government overreach.” ...

Greetings from the UP, where winter is just a state of mind February 18, 2019 Michigan, Lansing State Journal
... "you go to the local pub, order a pizza and sit in the back and watch the deer ...There's a donation canister to buy food for the deer." ...

The deer are in serious trouble February 14, 2019 Ontario, My Eespanola Now
... The deer are starving and a local game and fish member says deer are dying in droves because of the harsh winter conditions ... recommends deer be fed a fifty/fifty mix of corn and oats because pure corn is too rich and could kill them...

Exclude wild pigs from wildlife feeders with panel fencing February 14, 2019 Georgia, Rockdale Newton Citizen
... results showed that 20-inch fences only reduced adult wild pig access, while the 28- and 34-inch fences excluded all wild pigs... adult deer visits to the game feeders did not decline significantly ... a different study ...found that fencing over 33 inches tall limited fawn access to feeding stations...

Despite storms, Idaho winter is normal and emergency feeding is unneeded  February 14, 2019  Idaho, Coeur d'Alene Press 
... in mid February, Idaho’s snowpack was ranging from 81 percent to 112 percent of average with the majority of drainages running between 85 and 95 percent.  Fish and Game has winter feeding advisory committees in each region of the state except the Panhandle ...

Watch cute moment Bradgate Park deer are served breakfast February 3, 2019 United Kingdom, Leicester Mercury 
... When frosts and snow arrive each winter it makes it hard for Bradgate Park’s deer to get to the nutritious grass that they depend upon for most of the year.  So the team of park rangers are kept busy on cold days, driving around the herds putting down hay and feed pellet ...

Fate of bill calling for deer feeding ban appears sealed January 31, 2019 Mississippi, Jackson Clarion Ledger
...  calling for a statewide ban of supplemental feeding of deer in Mississippi appears to have drawn its last breath ... an effort to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease... Feeding deer is popular among Mississippi deer hunters who want to attract deer and keep them in good physical condition ...

Volunteers Create Better Habitat for Wildlife in Bradford County January 27, 2019 Pennsylvania, PAHomePage.com
... these fields are going to become a part of a burn unit and we're cutting trees for  browse for deer.  "Cutting trees in the winter time will provide high protein and high calorie browse for whitetail deer and we're also creating an additional edge for species." [deer] ... 

Maine couple feed deer and feeds their own soul January 15, 2019 NewsCenterMaine.com WCSH-WLBZ
... feeding the local wildlife behind their store, "Raymond's Country Store," since 1978... begins at the start of December and runs until April Fool's Day...

Wyoming outlines chronic wasting disease plan January 7, 2019 LocalNews8.com
... The department has provided supplemental feed to elk during the winter months for more than 100 years ... 22 feedgrounds... "When CWD is found on elk feedgrounds, we will all be faced with some difficult discussions ...

Over fifty years of feeding deer at Powers Farm January 2, 2019 Maine, Sun Journal 
... Dozens of deer were showing up. Several cars slowly pulled up...  She has been lucky enough to enjoy these up close and personal winter visitors since she was a child...

CWD Detected In Teton County, Do Elk Feed Grounds Need To Go? December 21, 2018 Wyoming, Wyoming Public Media
... "Creating these dense concentrations seasonally for elk literally creates a feeding ground for things like brucellosis and now CWD," ... the Laramie Peak Elk Herd is free roaming ... 

Deer corn can kill neighborhood whitetails December 14, 2018 Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
... Deer may succumb to acidosis, or grain overload, when they eat a lot of readily digestible carbohydrates... The first stomach shuts down, resulting in dehydration, diarrhea, hypertension, incoordination and death. Carcasses are found with stomachs filled with corn...

Environmentalists: Plan to reduce elk feeding is overdue December 8, 2018 Wyoming, Fresno Bee
... Winter feeding of elk in the area began in 1910 to help them survive the winter and keep them from eating ranchers' hay in the Jackson area ... Earthjustice said [chronic wasting disease] could spread easily among elk that bunch together to eat the alfalfa pellets ...

Mississippi: Wildlife Group Wants Ban on Supplemental Deer Feeding December 4, 2018 AgFax 
... With the discovery of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pontotoc and Issaquena Counties, and the frequency that CWD is now being discovered in Mississippi, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation is strongly urging the Wildlife Commission to impose a statewide ban on supplemental feeding of white-tailed deer and other wildlife...

Axle, They 'invaded.' They're destroying yards. But this Texas town says they can stay August 18, 2018 Fort Worth Star Telegram (blog)
... Residents and city officials say deer have always roamed Azle, but a recent homebuilding spree wiped out their habitat... Azle City Manager Tom Muir said he and Police Chief Rick Pippins will not recommend the city ban deer feeding...

It’s Fawning Season June 20, 2018 New York, DEC News
... Fawn survival is heavily influenced by habitat quality, and those fawns that have good hiding cover and quality forage have the odds in their favor.   You can improve habitat for fawns on your lands by promoting native forbs in fields and forests...

Ban deer feeding, baiting to combat 'zombie deer' disease June 8,  2018 Michigan, Detroit Free Press
...  should be banned across all of the Lower Peninsula to help stop the alarming spread of chronic wasting disease in wild deer, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is recommending ... The disease is passed from deer to deer through infected animals' saliva, urine and feces — making bait and feeding piles problematic ...

... The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission ended the ban in Tensas, Madison and East Carroll parishes Thursday, after state biologists reported that they haven’t found any sign in Louisiana of a fatal brain infection [chronic wasting disease] found in a deer near the state line in Mississippi...

‘Don't feed the deer' bill moves forward May 11, 2018 New Jersey, New Jersey Herald 
... The Senate version (S2419) ... will make it illegal to feed whitetail deer, except as bait for hunting ... 


Risk of Inappropriate Feeding 
 
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...

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...

Habitat management influences overwinter survival of mule deer fawns in Colorado EJ Bergman, CJ Bishop, DJ Freddy, GC White… - … of Wildlife Management, 2014
... many pinyon pine (Pinus edulis)–Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) woodland habitats reach late seral stages that encroach into forest openings. This encroachment typically occurs at the expense of browse species that are preferred by mule deer ... documented changes in deer vital rates in response to habitat manipulations are lacking. ... . Our study provides evidence that habitat management on winter ranges can positively influence a key vital rate for mule deer in pinyon pine–Utah juniper ecosystems ...

Enhancing White-tailed Deer Habitats on Your Property: Food Plots [PDF]
RA Pierce, EB Flinn, B Mormann, P Lowry - 2013
... Deer are selective browsers; therefore, a variety of foods make up their diet, including broad-leaved herbaceous plants (forbs), woody plants, grasses, mast (acorns, fruits and
berries) and mushrooms. No one food dominates a deer’s diet throughout the year because deer select foods based on plant availability, palatability and nutritional content, all of which vary throughout the year. The nutritional needs of deer also vary throughout the year. During the spring and summer, pregnant and lactating does and antler-growing bucks need more protein in their diets. During the fall and winter, deer have greater energy demands and therefore need more carbohydrates. Food plots can be planted to provide supplemental nutrition ...

Researchers tell what works well in Louisiana deer food plots September 18, 2013 NOLA.com
... "Management of native browse species is many times overlooked when hunters and sportsmen want to improve habitat conditions ... Fertilizing Japanese honeysuckle, blackberry and dewberry and other forbs and vines normally found in open timber stands will greatly enhance the food and cover that Louisiana upland wildlife depend on... Where manipulation of the native habitat is possible, establishing long, narrow food strips in a wagon-wheel fashion can be of maximum benefit ...

... While native forage can provide an important supply of resources, nutritional availability may also be enhanced through food plots and supplemental feed. However, nutritional demands of deer, and forage quality and abundance fluctuate throughout the year. Therefore, we conducted a cost-benefit analysis to determine how to cost-effectively maximize food production during nutritional stress periods for deer. Native forage and food plots cost-effectively maximized food production during June and July, but supplemental feed became increasingly important during September ...

Songbird Use of White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) Food Plots in Appalachian Hardwood Forests  WE Ricks, RJ Cooper, WD Gulsby, KV Miller - Southeastern Naturalist, 2016
... Food plots are commonly planted for Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) in the eastern US, because they are known to benefit this species. We hypothesized that food plots may also provide early-successional habitat for nongame species, such as songbirds ... both species richness and abundance were greater along plot edges during breeding season on southern sites. Species richness was also greater along plot edges for a subset of southern sites sampled during winter. ...

... The supplementary fed population had a higher population growth rate, the females were more likely to reproduce and their calves were heavier than in the control population. Female body mass was negatively related to timing of vegetation green-up in both herds. Since both populations increased in the last decade we found support to our prediction that density-dependence negatively affected our study herds. Indeed, density negatively affected growth rates, female body mass, reproductive success and calf body mass in both populations and, as expected, this effect was more marked in the control herd.

Aggressive behavior of white‐tailed deer at concentrated food sites as affected by population density August, 2013 RN Donohue, DG Hewitt, TE Fulbright, CA Deyoung… - The Journal of Wildlife Management
... Concentrated food sources are used frequently in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) management and research, but because such food sources are easily defended, aggressive interactions among deer may influence their effectiveness... [Conclusion: spread out the food a little so the does and fawns can get something].


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Deer Friendly,
Jan 11, 2014, 9:55 AM
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Deer Friendly,
Jan 19, 2017, 7:44 AM