Wisc. DNR: Don’t feed the deer yet

As the colder weather continues, the Wisconsin DNR is asking people to avoid feeding deer. The agency says they understand the public may be concerned about the impact of winter conditions on the deer population, but say supplemental feeding causes more harm than good.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says deer are well-adapted to surviving in winter conditions, having a slower metabolism to adapt to fewer food sources. Corn, alfalfa, and other feed are not part of their natural winter diet, and can cause severe digestive issues and even death. The DNR says even a single feeding can cause rumen acidosis, leading to death in an otherwise healthy deer.

The DNR also says feeding deer in the winter can draw them out of their winter range that already has naturally available food and shelter, which causes them to expend more energy than necessary. It also causes deer to congregate, which increases the risk of disease transmission, including chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Creating and improving habitat is a more sustainable long-term solution to give deer and other wildlife the resources they need during the summer months and support them during the cold and snowy winter season, according to the DNR.

Various resources are available to help landowners improve their land for wildlife, including the Deer Management Assistance Program, the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership and the Landowner Incentive Program.

Deer feeding is currently illegal in more than three-quarters of Wisconsin counties. Where it is legal, regulations restrict the location and amount of food that may be placed. For a full list of wildlife feeding regulations and counties where feeding is allowed, visit the DNR’s baiting and feeding webpage.