February 5, 2023

Winter Supplemental Feeding Of Whitetail Deer

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Some states prohibit winter supplemental feeding while others have no real objections to it. Some states do it but strictly on an emergency basis. This discussion can lead to other discussions about supplemental feeding year round, food plots for deer and forest management for the purpose of creating better habitat.

So who’s right? Even biologist will disagree as to whether supplemental feeding should or shouldn’t be allowed. There are some things biologists will agree on. One of them being that the wrong kinds of food being doled out to deer, can kill them.

Are we helping deer when we feed them? A visit to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website will get you a full page of disadvantages to feeding and suggested alternatives. Here are some of the highlights.

Feeding deer in late fall may disrupt deer migration to natural wintering areas

Supplemental feeding may not reduce deer losses during winter.

Supplemental feeding may actually increase predation.

Deer feeding sites near homes also place deer at greater risk of death from free-roaming dogs.

Deer feeding sites may increase deer/vehicle collisions.

Deer may starve when fed supplemental foods during winter.

Deer require one or two weeks to adjust to new foods.

Some foods are not easily digested by deer during winter.

Deer compete aggressively for scarce, high-quality foods.

Deer reject grains or pelleted foods that have become spoiled or moldy

Supplementally-fed deer may die from eating too much feed at one time.

Supplemental feeding is expensive.

Attracting deer to feeding sites, while failing to provide adequate amounts of supplemental foods can actually cause malnutrition in normally healthy deer populations.

Deer concentrations at feeding sites may increase the vulnerability of deer to diseases.

Supplemental feeding may have long-term impacts on the behavior of both deer and the people who feed them.

Deer tend to lose their wariness after prolonged contact with people at feeders.

People’s attitudes toward deer change after initiation of supplemental feeding projects.

Supplemental feeding may increase browsing of landscape plants and gardens.

Supplemental feeding within a deer wintering area can reduce the forest’s ability to shelter deer.

Those were a list of the things MDIFW calls disadvantages to supplemental feeding. Please take note that many of the statements are not clearly definitive. They use words like may or can.

Below is a list of suggestions people can do as an alternative to winter supplemental feeding.

Taking an active role in managing their lands to improve deer habitat naturally.

Supporting MDIFW programs that protect and enhance deer wintering habitat.

Working cooperatively with MDIFW to control deer populations in residential areas.

Allowing deer hunters access to their huntable lands.

This shows the highlights of the disadvantages of feeding per the MDIFW and suggestions for alternative ways to enhance and protect whitetail deer. Visit the website and more in depth discussion is there explaining more of their reasoning.

Tom Remington