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, transmit disease, 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.   Some deer may take time to adapt to these unfamiliar foods.

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, almonds, watermelon, honey locust, watermelon, and persimmons.  Setting out individual servings is a good way to reduce disease transmission.  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 and other diseases.  Check the map to see if you are in a chronic wasting disease areaReducing food pile density can reduce transmission probability as shown in the picture at right.  The Mississippi DWFP recommends using an above ground covered feeder.  Leaving food on the ground significantly increases risk of toxins and other harmful agents.  Poop should be removed.  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, white oaks and red oaks, ash, aspen, maple, popular, willow, white cedar, yellow birch, and chestnut.  Also soybeans, dogwood, pokeweed, aster, ragweed, goldenrod,  sumac, 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


McCall nixes proposed deer feeding ban August 1, 2021 Idaho County Free Press
... The defeat of the feeding ban means the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will not trap and relocate an estimated 150 to 200 town deer ...

Big game baiting law June 30, 2021 Utah DWR
... HB 295 was passed during the 2021 legislative session and went into effect May 5. This law restricts the baiting of big game animals (like deer and elk) when hunting in Utah. In the new law, "bait" is defined as intentionally placing food or nutrient substances — including salt or other mineral blocks — to manipulate the behavior of wildlife for the purpose of hunting or attempting to harvest big game...
If someone is not planning to hunt and doesn't have a hunting permit, they are still allowed to use bait to simply view or photograph wildlife...

A good example of above ground deer feeder - Texas, June 14, 2021


Can Supplemental Feeding Increase Disease Risk? Research finds fewer ticks at feeders because the feeders attract other animals such as turkeys and possums that eat the ticks. With more animals there is more poop that may contain disease agents, so poop should be removed. June 10, 2021


...“They’re getting food [in McCall] so there’s no need to [migrate],” ... If the ordinance goes through, Fish and Game plans to trap and relocate the healthy deer population. This is to acclimate the deer to a natural migration pattern...

... We discerned no significant changes in the population that shifted from natural forage to hay supplementation, or in the populations that changed from one type of hay to another. Our results suggest that supplementation with alfalfa pellets alters the native gut microbiome of elk, with potential implications for population health...

Boost Whitetail Nutrition With Persimmon Trees March 18, 2021 grandviewoutdoors.com
... whitetails love persimmons ... Persimmons bear fruit from late August through October ...

... According to the description on their YouTube Channel, the pantry "feeds approximately 400 pounds per day of native oats (local) to help sustain the white-tailed deer population through rough winters here in central Maine." ...

An Above Ground Deer Feeder


... wildlife officials have been feeding these animals with specific food including fresh vegetables, salt, and dry leaves of willows which they are keeping at different places of oak patches of Dachigam Park. Hangul is the only surviving breed of red deer and these were once present in thousands across the mountainous range of Kashmir...

Wild red deer in NW China receive fodder from local authorities January 30, 2021 CGTN
... organizing personnel to prepare fodder for wild animals like the red deer after heavy snow hit the area, making it harder for them to find food...

Topsfield man faces illegal hunting charges in Rowley January 14, 2021 Massachusetts, Eagle-Tribune
... he left heaps of corn on private property to lure deer into his sights ... Massachusetts regulations state that corn and “other natural and artificial substances to attract or entice deer” must be removed within 10 days prior to the start of the deer hunting archery season...

Manchester leaders mulling penalties for feeding wildlife January 12, 2021 Connecticut, Hartford Courant
... There is no state law prohibiting the feeding of wildlife ... 

Near the end of this last rut, Denver sadly lost his mate Shae to Corn Toxicity but their young (baby deer Ethan) from last year is still with him. Denver is staying close to baby deer Ethan this winter. When Ethan is old enough to leave his adopted Mom Lana (Shae's sister) this Spring, he'll likely join his dad Denver to begin learning how to be an adult buck. - January 8, 2021


Feeding deer, individual plates. January 6, 2021


Data shows how bunched up elk are in Northwest Wyoming’s feedgrounds; a worry for chronic wasting disease spread December 27, 2020 Wyoming, Cheyenne-Scottsbluff KGWN-TV
... elk contact rates were 2.6 times higher during the feed season ... feeding concentrates animals, creating a conduit for the transmission of diseases ... About 20,000 elk are fed on the federally-managed refuge and on 22 state-run feedgrounds in Teton, Sublette and Lincoln counties...

Watch deer gather in rural Maine in these live webcams December 23, 2020 Maine, Bangor Daily News
... To help sustain a deer herd through winter, Brownville created a deer pantry where hoofed friends can stop by for a snack. With daily feedings at 9 a.m...

The elk arrive, with appetites December 19, 2020 Oregon, Baker City Herald
... the animals have become so accustomed to Marvin and his crew doling out alfalfa when the snow lies deep, that sometimes they arrive before he’s ready to start bucking bales...The state started the project in 1971 ...



Risk of Inappropriate Feeding 

Shae's baby deer, Ethan, is severely ill with Corn Toxicity, a deadly disease that is caused by people feeding deer corn or similar carbohydrates like wheat (bread). It is not contagious. Please don’t feed deer corn, bread, chips or the like. - November 14, 2020


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....



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Jan 11, 2014, 9:55 AM
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