Feeding Deer

See the Latest News and Research Below. Also see food plots


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.


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, figs, turnips, honey locust, watermelon, persimmons, and sunflower seeds. 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.


Good trees include pears, apples, crab apples, persimmons, aspen, white oaks and red oaks, ash, aspen, maple, popular, willow, white cedar, yellow birch, red mulberry, and chestnut. Also soybeans, dogwood, pokeweed, aster, ragweed, goldenrod, sumac, and honeysuckle.


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 area. Reducing food pile density can reduce transmission probability. The Mississippi DWFP recommends using an above ground covered feeder. An example. 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.


News

Elkhorn Wildlife Area to conduct elk habitat enhancement June 11, 2022 Oregon, La Grande Observer

... Rocky Mountain elk eat alfalfa hay during a previous winter at the Elkhorn Wildlife Area feeding site west of North Powder. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will begin forest management activities at the Elkhorn Wildlife Area this summer to enhance habitat for elk, deer, and other wildlife species...


Aflatoxin in Corn Harms Deer and Turkeys. These 3 Steps Prevent Trouble. June 1, 2022 National Deer Association

... Aflatoxins are toxic chemicals produced by some species of fungus in the Aspergillus genus. They were first identified in 1961 after more than 100,000 turkeys and other domestic animals died from ingesting aflatoxin-contaminated feed... aflatoxins are produced over time on corn remaining on the ground ... [see video below]

How To Attract Deer To Your Garden May 10, 2022 MSN

... For as many deer-resistant gardens out there, you can also find plenty of gardeners that actively try to attract deer to their yard to observe the antlered animal's beauty, elegance, and grace ...

After harsh winter, emergency deer feeding underway in northern Ontario March 18, 2022 The Weather Network

... Deer will be fed a mixture of corn and oats... previous emergency deer feeding efforts have demonstrated this mixture is readily accepted by deer, will improve their condition and avoids the problems that are encountered when deer are fed a diet of pure corn...


Enhance Deer Habitat March 15, 2022 New York, DEC News

... now is a great time for habitat management projects that involve cutting trees to provide new food and cover for deer and other wildlife... learn to identify preferred winter deer foods and consult a forester or biologist for guidance...


Brownville man’s deer-feeding venture keeps growing February 9, 2022 Maine, Bangor Daily News

... He'll then drive the vehicle around his property and fill troughs with the oats, along with apples and acorns ... Deer scatter across the land ... unaware of the webcams streaming their activity to thousands of viewers on Facebook and YouTube...


Identifying Aflatoxin Exposure Risk from Supplemental Feeding of Deer February 2022. Journal of Wildlife Diseases

... We found aflatoxins (5 parts per billion [ppb]) in feeders

during summer (4% prevalence, 58671 ppb mean 6 standard deviation) and hunting season (October–January, 6%, 6061 ppb) and in bagged/bulk feed during hunting season (11%, 1368 ppb). After 8 d, aflatoxins were detected in all summer corn piles at toxic levels (483–3,475 ppb), although none were detected in hunting season

piles after day one...

New deer feeding ban takes effect in northern Minnesota December 30, 2021 MPR News

... comes in response to chronic wasting disease found in two northern Minnesota locations this year...


Idaho Fish and Game open winter feeding site for elk west of Ketchum December 27, 2021 KTVB

... typically feeds more than 125 elk every year... has been in use since the 1980's and is intended to keep elk away from local communities in Ketchum and Sun Valley...


Elk feeding tours at Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area canceled due to virus December 20, 2021 Oregon, ODFW News

... the wildlife area will not be able to offer the opportunity for the public to participate for the rest of the 2021-2022 feeding season... Wildlife area staff will continue to provide supplemental feed to elk during the winter months to enhance viewing opportunities for visitors. Feeding times are between 9-10 a.m. daily and should continue through mid-March...


Like clockwork, the elk descend on Eastern Oregon respite as soon as people leave December 17, 2021 Oregon Live

... Marvin said elk start to show up at some of the feed sites ... on Dec. 1... “They have a phenomenal memory of where they’ve wintered in the past, and they can migrate for many miles overnight to be here ...

Advisory committee to meet on winter feeding of elk, deer November 16, 2021 Idaho, postregister.com

... feeding has occurred in recent years to feed elk on the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area after a large fire consumed most of the winter feed. Feeding has also been used to bait elk or deer away from highways to keep people and animals safe. Fish and Game often sets up panels or fencing to keep deer and elk away from haystacks during the winter...


Safeguard wildlife from aflatoxins in grain September 24, 2021 Oklahoma, Muskogee Phoenix

... Avoid grains with visible signs of mold growth, which might be an indicator that aflatoxins are present. Do not buy grains that are clumped together ... Always purchase grain from reputable dealers ...Only purchase grain planned for use in the immediate future...


Cottonwood Shores restricts deer feeding September 17, 2021 Texas, Marble Falls

... Feeding deer within 50 feet of a road in the city of Cottonwood Shores is now prohibited. The City Council approved an ordinance ... also bans electronic feeders. Those who want to feed deer must do so by hand and be at least 50 feet from a road...

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, killing the deer, so should be used sparingly as an energy supplement such as for does trying to feed new fawns. Corn is also 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." Use fresh grains from a reputable source to avoid poisoning deer with alfatoxins.


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.


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.


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.


Distribute food to reduce disease transmission and conflict.

Risk of Inappropriate Feeding

Moose collaring study shows evidence of widespread wildlife feeding February 16, 2022 Wyoming, Jackson Hole News & Guide

... Moose are evolved to eat wood — willows, mostly — over the winter. “Their digestive system is built for that,” Courtemanch said. Introducing something new like grain or alfalfa can be hazardous. “If they eat enough of it fast enough, it could kill them right away,” ...

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...


CPW says someone feeding a doe corn caused her to die February 14, 2020 Colorado, KUSA

... 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....