Biologist Cautions Public About Feeding Deer

Jan 23, 2018

Credit Wikimedia Commons

While winter has been cold and increasingly snowy, Wisconsin's white-tail deer are doing ok. So much so, a DNR biologist says feeding deer is unnecessary and can be harmful. It also is illegal to feed in many parts of the state, including Oneida, Vilas and Forest counties.

Wildlife health specialist Tim Marien says the public wants to help deer but feeding deer isn't the best approach. 

"....the fat reserves that deer build up in the summer and fall, those warm weather months when they have more access to food, in the end that is what is going to get them through a harsh winter. Any feeding may help a couple deer, but won't impact the overall deer herd. In the end you may be doing more harm than good...."

He says the types of food given to door quite often are not the best for them...

"....some of the bad ones people might try are corn or hay. Those can have a really bad impact. Having that much corn or hay in their stomach at one time, their stomachs aren't equipt to break that down and in the end it can cause toxic levels and have them die that way...."

Marien says there are some commercial products that do offer the deer the right mix of nutrients that they can digest. He says cutting oak, aspen and crabapple provide natural food sources and evergreens provide shelter from the cold and snow. Marien says good habitat is often more helpful than additional feeding.

Marien says you can find out more about deer feeding at the DNR website and also find the counties where feeding has been banned.