Feeding Deer  Also see food plots  
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Supplemental feeding of wild deer can improve survival and increase the population, but careless feeding can kill deer or create management problems. 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.  For example, 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 such as Purina Antler Max Breeder with a protein content of about 16 percent.  Other similar pelletized products that can be used to feed deer 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 is widely available.

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.  Use of less than 25 percent corn is recommended.  C.O.B. (corn, oats, and barley) is readily available and has protein of about 8 percent, but 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 to reduce risk of bloat.  Oats are a preferred supplement.  Deer enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables such as apples, grapes, small plums, cherries, pears, pumpkin, carrots, snap peas.  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... do not feed corn ... 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. "  Cutting twigs and branches down so deer can reach them is effective in winter. 

Feeding deer, as in baiting by hunters, may increase the transmission of disease, an increasing concern given the rise of chronic wastingReducing 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

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 ... 

Deer feeding bill gets massive makeover, passes Senate May 3, 2018 Illinois, Outdoornews
... Senate Bill 2493, which originally stated “a person may supplementally feed deer with items otherwise prohibited by the Wildlife Code when not in active deer hunting season . . .” was amended on Tuesday to become a call for a study on feeding wild deer by the University of Illinois...

Conservation group aims to save one deer at a time April 18, 2018 Maine, Fiddlehead Focus
... Aroostook County Conservation Association ... “A large part of what we do involves habitat improvement projects such as the planting of food plots which are strategically located throughout The County,” ... When winter conditions make the plots unavailable, the group offers the deer limited amounts of supplemental food consisting of a 50-50 blend of oats and barley...

... State Sen. Chapin Rose recently told lawmakers in Springfield that there are veterinarians who say feeding deer outside of hunting season will help keep the animals healthy... They voted to approve the plan ...

  Randolph County woman is the ‘Deer Whisperer’ April 11, 2018 North Carolina, WGHP
... Affectionately called "Baby Girl" the favorite deer has been visiting Allen's home ever since it was an orphan fawn...

... This is a very secluded forest in northern Ontario where the deer are protected and cannot be hunted ... The people in this area feed the deer occasionally, especially during very harsh winters...

We visited a deer feeding station in Michigan's Western Upper Peninsula and even though they were leery because I was there with all my equipment ....I still lost count at 50....It was definitely a great experience. - March 11, 2018


... planted Bitter Brush, Service Berries and Sage Brush.  Seeds for the plants were purchased from proceeds of a fundraiser ... "We fed deer here in '08, we fed deer here last year in '17," ...

Enhance Deer Habitat February 14, 2018 New York, DEC News
... February is a great month for habitat management projects that involve cutting trees to provide new food and cover for deer and other wildlife... Felling trees for firewood or forest thinning makes the tops immediately available to deer.  Later, stump sprouts and new plant growth caused by the gap in the tree canopy may provide additional browse opportunities..,

Manitoulin, Trail breaking to allow deer access to food sources encouraged February 9, 2018 Ontario, manitoulin.ca
...  it has been a good winter for deer on Manitoulin, with less of an overabundance of snow ... “People can break trails for deer to access food and take down cedar trees and bushes for deer to eat.” ...

How Does Toxic Bait Affect Deer February 2, 2018 Texas,  Bowhunting
... The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not allow feeds testing more than 20 parts per billion of aflatoxins to be fed to dairy cattle or in grain products chosen for human consumption... grains exceeding those toxicity levels can be sold as wildlife feeds ... Texas A&M researchers tested 100 samples of such feeds, they found 44 percent contained aflatoxins exceeding 20 parts per billion, and 20 percent were at 100 parts per billion and higher...

... McMahon’s operation about 45 miles north of Bangor in Piscataquis County – feeding as many as 200 deer a day – has become a bit of a social-media sensation... the 71-year-old McMahon created the Facebook page called the “Brownville Deer Food Pantry,” ...

Deer feeding rules don't mesh with outdoors writer's observations January 25, 2018 Minnesota, Minneapolis Star Tribune
...Recreational feeding is different from baiting. Baiters attract deer to a food pile (corn, grain, apples, etc.) for the purpose of hunting them. It’s illegal in Minnesota. Recreation feeding is legal, except in [see map] ... The reason? Some captive deer (those in an enclosure) had verified cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) ...
XPR
"....some of the bad ones people might try are corn or hay. Those can have a really bad impact. Having that much corn or hay in their stomach at one time, their stomachs aren't equipt to break that down and in the end it can cause toxic levels and have them die that way...."

... When a deer’s diet changes abruptly, so does its GI tract’s pH and microflora. Someone dumping out 50-pound bags of low-fiber, high-carb food like corn or even alfalfa hay can cause deer to develop acute acidosis and severe bloating in their gut...

Risk of Inappropriate Feeding 
  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...

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