Feeding Deer  Also see food plots  
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Supplemental feeding of wild deer can improve survival, 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.

Corn is often used as a food supplement, but is low in protein and nutritional value and may result in acidosis, 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 may also need time to adapt to this food source.  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 wasting.   The Mississippi DWFP recommends using an above ground covered feeder or stationary spin cast feeder.  Feeding deer is illegal in some jurisdictions.  Michigan issues deer feeding permits.  Deer have been routinely fed over thousands of years.  Ancient peoples managed them and their habitat as an important natural resource.  Planting food plots is a safe and legal way to support local deer populations.  Good trees include pears, apples, crab apples, persimmons, aspen, chestnuts, white oaks and red oaks.
News
DFW struggles to feed elk, deer October 19, 2017 Washington, Longview Daily News
... expected to be another cold, wet winter.  The state Department of Fish and Wildlife will be ready to feed the state’s largest herd and in the process protect valuable agriculture and create an incredible sight for onlookers ...  the Yakima herd down by about 2,500 from last year to fewer than 8,500 ...

Don't feed the Key deer October 16, 2017 Florida, KeysNews.com
... people have been providing a variety of food products — including corn and dog and cat food  ... The sudden and increased intake of grain and/or carbohydrates results in acidic conditions in a deer’s rumen or stomach. Known as “ruminal acidosis,” it kills the bacteria necessary for digestion and causes bloating, diarrhea, enteritis and even death...

Baiting Deer Remains Illegal in Alabama September 15, 2017 ADCNR News
...  the so-called “corn” bill that was introduced in the Alabama Legislature this year did not become law. Yes, the bill passed the House of Representatives, but that’s as far as it went... “Feeding is fine as long as you stay within the area definition,” ...  located beyond 100 yards from the hunter and not within the line of sight ..,

Compressed air powers unique deer supplement system September 14, 2017 Texas, San Antonio Express-News
... the feeder holds up to 650 pounds of feed and is designed to fire food out and away from the tube-shoot ... using galvanized steel and a long shoot tube, the feeder is “coon-proof, hog-proof, mud-proof, wind-proof, cattle-proof and fool-proof,”...

Mule Deer can live in a wide variety of habit types from alpine meadows and mountain tops above treeline, to arid deserts, grasslands and more... No matter the habit type in which they live there is one thing the Mule Deer cannot live without, and that is WATER... Presented by the Mule Deer Foundation - September 4, 2017


Virginia's deer feeding ban begins Friday August 30, 2017 Virginia, WAVY-TV
... It’s illegal to feed deer or elk during any deer or elk hunting season...

Deer urine ban creates argument for hunters, manufacturers August 29, 2017 New York, Poughkeepsie Journal
... In 2003, it became illegal to feed wild deer here in New York... Eventually an arrest in Sullivan County for feeding deer shined a spotlight on the feeding ban. After a plea of innocent and a trial that ended with a guilty verdict for the offender, an appeal was filed which ended with the feeding ban being overturned by the court...

Supplemental feeding in better focus August 22, 2017 Louisiana, Louisiana Sportsman... supplemental feeding of deer had been legal in Mississippi, it was just highly regulated... restrictions on corn to just the short December 1 to February 28 ... feeder can now be in plain view, it still must be at least 100 yards or more away from the hunter...

Local man's deer feed supplement hits shelves nationwide August 18, 2017 New Jersey, New Jersey Herald
... founded Grow the Bone, a premium all-in-one whitetail deer nutritional supplement, around 10 years ago... can now be found in 1,400 Wal-Mart stores across the U.S...  designed to grow the biggest and healthiest bucks ...

... A member of the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club (GBFGC) is happy that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is not putting in place legislation that would prevent supplemental feeding of deer when severe conditions in the winter put deer in peril...

5 ways to see more deer this year August 11, 2017 Mississippi, Jackson Clarion Ledger
... Supplemental feeding has become the norm as restrictions on feeders have been relaxed and the practice has become more widely accepted ...  many hunters responded that  supplemental feeding has had a negative impact... "Deer know that feed is there and they may be more apt to become nocturnal...

Want to know how to start supplementing your white-tailed deer herd? Here is a quick run down over deer nutritional requirements and the different feeds we are feeding in Coleman county and why we are feeding them! - July 3, 2017


Lance Coates from Mumme's shares a wide range of tips for those creating a wildlife feeding program from scratch. Some of the topics he'll touch on include when to feed, what to feed, how to get started as well as choosing feeders to help get the feed deployed properly while keeping out other animals. - June 7, 2017


... The survey gave strong support (60 percent) to year-round, supplemental feeding of deer ...

Protecting the deer yards April 8, 2017 Maine, Sun-Journal
... “a new normal” in Maine’s deer wintering areas. He believes that coyote predation pressure and more and more voluntary winter feeding programs by citizens is having an impact on deer wintering habits. (They are staying closer to town near the feed and away from coyotes) ...

Efforts underway to assist elk and deer until springtime March 25, 2017 British Columbai, The Free Press
... the province was investing $40,000 to mitigate the drastic impacts of one of the region’s harshest winters ...  to purchase hay to feed elk and deer in strategic locations around the East Kootenay... many ungulate populations are in long-term decline...

... he has also spread small amounts of (alfalfa) hay at many sites rather than dumping a single large pile... thinks as much as 80 percent of the animals in some areas would have died without the handouts ... The campaign has raised about $14,500 through a GoFundMe account ...

Winter feeding in motion on Tex Creek WMA February 27, 2017 Idaho, Idaho Fish and Game
... an estimated 4,000 elk and 2,500 deer migrate to winter range on the Tex Creek WMA ... But with the grasses, forbs and brush burned off this year ... They would find food just 13 miles away in farm fields, haystacks ...

Fire burned 22,000 acres of winter range on the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area in eastern Idaho in 2016. To support elk and deer, and prevent private property damage, Idaho Fish and Game set in motion the largest winter feeding operation in Idaho’s history.


... elk have digestive systems that can more easily adapt to a change to pellet food, deer have a harder time. Their four-part stomachs hold microbes necessary to digest food, and those microbes adapt throughout the year to the deer’s changing diet. It takes several weeks for things to adjust, and deer can die of starvation even if their stomachs are full with undigested pellets or hay...

Focus on feeding February 10, 2017 Oregon, Baker City Herald
... leading a campaign to feed about 1,000 elk and more than 1,000 deer in snowbound eastern Baker County ...  raised about $14,500 through a GoFundMe account over the past 21 days ... as much as 80 percent of the animals in some areas would have died ...


Aerial shots of deer and elk gathered around winter feeding sites near Dingle and Bancroft. - February 9, 2017 Idaho


Dire winter spurs talk about feeding wildlife February 7, 2017 Wyoming, Jackson Hole News&Guide
... A herd that started off winter in the West Bank neighborhood numbering 53 animals has dwindled to 20 or 30 elk ... Wyoming hasn’t fed deer on an emergency basis since the 1970s ... "I have deer literally sleeping up against my house..." [an online discussion about emergency feeding from Game and Fish] ... 

More deer expected to survive winter February 7, 2017 Michigan, Escanaba Daily Press
...People living in eligible areas who wish to help boost deer survival rates are currently able to apply for supplemental deer feeding permits ... “It increases survival by providing feed through winter,” Sexton said. The DNR authorized the ­issuing of feeding permits in the southern U.P ...

Idaho spending $650,000 to feed elk, deer and antelope February 1, 2017 Idaho, 6 On Your Side
... feeding about 10,000 elk, 10,000 deer and 100 antelopes ... at 110 sites around the southern half of the state ...

Officials say the emergency feeding is intended to reduce damage to private crops, keep animals from roads and provide nutrition.


Winter out West has been brutal for wild animals January 31, 2016 Oregon, Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
... Without human intervention, elk, deer and other grazing animals face high mortality rates in the West this winter. This Oregon elk savors a mouthful of alfafa brought to its herd by wildlife officers. Keith Kohl/ Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Will Harsh Conditions Devastate Colorado Deer and Elk? January 26, 2017 Outdoor Life Magazine
... The last full-blown winter feeding operation conducted in the Gunnison Basin happened during the winter of 2007-2008 when a sustained period of extreme cold, combined with more than 100 inches in snow, resulted in the loss of more than 30 percent of the fawns and female mule deer. That feeding operation cost the state approximately $2.8 million...

... Snow and cold temperatures are threatening wildlife this winter ... the DWR sent truckloads of deer pellets into the Cache Valley and three other counties in northern Utah...

F&G begins elk, deer feeding in south county January 25, 2017 Idaho, Idaho Mountain Express and Guide
... the department has been working with private landowners to plow out areas where it can spread the feed—hay for elk and pellets for deer. He said the feeding areas have to be reasonably accessible, but far enough away from fenced areas so the wild animals don’t interfere with domestic ones...

Fish and Game begins emergency feeding in Bellevue Triangle January 21, 2017 Idaho, Twin Falls Times-News
... The department this week set up emergency feeding grounds at Cove Ranch southeast of Bellevue, where 200 elk and 150 mule deer were raiding haystacks and creating a traffic hazard ... “We are trying to pull them away from (livestock) feed lines and busy roadways to keep drivers safe ...

.. moving ahead with an emergency operation to bait deer with food to try to draw them away from a highway – a project reflecting worries about deer survival after heavy snowfall and a spike in vehicles hitting deer along the highway that cuts through critical habitat...

Winter feeding needs to start before it's too late January 18, 2017 Idaho, Idaho State Journal
...  a proposal to add money to hunting licenses to establish a dedicated fund for big game winter feeding...  (HB596) passed but unfortunately was amended to include verbage for monies for depredation, along with other things... there is no incentive for the F&G to spend any sizable amounts of money out of the account for feeding starving animals, which was the true intent of the legislation...

Supplemental deer feeding permits available in southern UP January 17, 2017 Michigan, UPMatters.com
... Easily digestible food sources most beneficial for feeding deer include grains, second-cut alfalfa, clover, and pelletized deer food. 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 and are not legal for supplemental feeding under permits...

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]

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.

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