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DNR Recommends Avoiding Feeding Deer

Wisconsin DNR

There's a temptation to feed deer this time of year as winter drags on. But a DNR wildlife health biologist cautions against it for a variety of reasons.

Tim Marien says you should consider the negative - and sometimes harmful - impacts of feeding wildlife. Marien says except for a few far northern counties, Wisconsin's deer herd appears to be doing well this winter. Relatively mild temperatures and only moderate snow levels have enabled deer to move freely throughout most areas of the state.

Marien says deer know how to survive..

"They'll herd up more and go into their more covered areas, tree stands and evergreen areas and cattail marshes. That gives them some protection from the wind and the cold and that pretty much where they will hang out. They're moving a lot less so they're preserving their energy. The little food they might have or need can be right in that area...."

He says they will need to move to get the food you leave and causes them to burn energy. Marien says if the feeding area is near people, it can cause more stress on the deer. Feed spots also can contribute to passing disease like chronic wasting disease. Because of CWD, many Wisconsin counties are places where feeding is not legal.

Marien says feeding deer should be done during the warmer weather months...

"So they have these fat reserves to get them through the winter. But if landowners do want to help, cutting a branch off and some of that more natural browse that they might normally eat might get them through these months."

Marien says overall, deer are doing fairly well this winter, with the exception of some snowbelt counties where the snow is deeper. It hasn't been an extremely harsh winter. He says they usually hear a few reports into March and April of dead deer, but overall, the winter shouldn't be a major problem for whitetails.

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