White-tailed deer

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Don't feed deer

Deer that died from eating from a feed pile

CWD threat prompts precautionary feeding ban

Deer feeding is prohibited in these counties:

  • North central: Crow Wing, Aitkin, Morrison, the portion of Cass County south of Minnesota highways 34 and 200 and the portion of Mille Lacs County north of County Road 11.
  • Central: Stearns, Kandiyohi, Wright, Meeker, McCloud and the portion of Renville County north of U.S. Highway 212.
  • Southest: Olmsted, Winona, Mower, Fillmore and Houston.

Feed is defined as salt, minerals, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, hay and other food that is capable of attracting or enticing deer.

The feeding ban in north central and central Minnesota becomes effective Monday, Aug. 28. The feeding ban in southeastern Minnesota has been in effect since January 2017.

A narrowly focused area near Preston in Fillmore County is the only place in Minnesota where CWD is known to exist in wild deer.

Feeding bans encompass wider areas because the potential extent of a possible infection is not known and one of the most probable mechanisms for CWD spread among deer is over a food source that concentrates animals and allows close contact.

Noble intentions; deadly results

It's not uncommon for wintering deer to eat themselves to death despite having reserves of fat. The deer pictured above died after overeating from the pile of corn shown in the photo's background. Supplemental feeding can result in enterotaxaemia, a fatal disease commonly called grain overload.

While providing piles of corn, hay or other feed can be a feel good act, it often results in bad consequences: disease, auto accidents, habitat loss and animal behavior changes.

Disease

Deer being checked for disease in a laboratory

Supplemental feeding closely congregating animals that would otherwise feed apart on natural foods. Tight concentrations of deer and elk, for example, dramatically increase the odds that an infected animal will spread Chronic Wasting Disease, bovine tuberculosis or brucellosis via nose-to-nose contact, eating feed contaminated by another animal's disease-carrying saliva or inhaling bacteria.

Auto accidents

Buck stuck in grill of car after a deer-car collison

Supplemental feeding often draws animals away from their natural feeding and bedding areas to locations where they create traffic accidents.

Habitat and crop loss

High concentrations of deer and other large plant-eating animals can retard forest regeneration, change plant species composition and cause significant crop depredation.

Behavior changes

An unnatural number of deer congregating in a yard, driveway and building site to eat feed spread on the ground

Supplemental feeding can make wild animals less fearful of humans, delay winter migration and even result in starvation if animals have not migrated to wintering areas and feeding ceases.

Big problems start with small handouts

Feeding deer makes them less wild, more vulnerable to disease and subject to population increases above what the available natural habitat can support.

More is not merrier

Deer that congregate in unnaturally high numbers tend to damage privately owned crops, vegetable gardens and ornamental plants. They also retard new forest growth by eating the buds of young trees.