We Need to Stop Feeding The Deer

by Jan 17, 2021Hunting in Maine, Whitetail Deer

We Need to Stop Feeding The Deer

I just hit a deer, do you want it?

My neighbor sent me this text during her morning commute to work.  Had there been room in my freezer, I might have taken her up on it. I had done it before when I watched another driver hit
another doe within 50 feet of where my neighbor was. It was the third deer hit that week in the same stretch of road. Why? A landowner is feeding them.

A few years ago, I spoke with Maine IF&W’s then deer biologist about the impacts of feeding deer.  We talked about the risk of diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease getting into the herd and
spreading so rapidly, because of the unnaturally large population being pulled into a small area.  We talked about the biological make-up of a deer’s stomach and how the food they are being fed
(grain) is not a natural food for them, especially during the winter months. We talked about the increase in predators in those areas because of the increased populations and of course, we talked about more deer being hit.

Maine IF&W has a four-page document called, “Living on the Edge: Winter Feeding of Deer: what you should know.” It lists many more examples of adverse impacts of feeding deer including disruption of natural deer migration, malnutrition, and more aggressive deer preventing vulnerable deer (like fawns) from getting enough food to survive.  And just because you don’t see these behaviors while looking out your window, does not mean that they are not happening.

Stop Feeding Deer

It infuriates me every time somebody shares the live video of the “food pantry” that we have in the state. All of those deer have been conditioned to go there in order to get fed in the winter months. They are now dependent on non-natural food and if the feeding ever ends, it will be years before deer revert back to a natural feeding pattern and move to naturally created winter yards.

If the genuine purpose behind these feeding operations is to “help” the deer during the winter months, then there should be a way for everyone to come to the table and create a plan to stop feeding the deer and help deer return to their natural feeding and wintering patterns.

We trust biologists to do their jobs and work to create a healthy animal population.  We need to listen and trust them when they say not to stop feeding the deer.

Otherwise, we will end up with more deer suffering and unable to survive in their natural environment. And the last thing I want is to watch more deer suffer on the side of the road as they slowly die from their injuries.

You can view more articles i’ve written about whitetail deer, here.

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Erin Merrill, author of And a Strong Cup of Coffee, is president of Women of the Maine Outdoors, a senior writer for Drury Outdoors, a contributor to the Northwoods Sporting Journal and passionate all things Maine, Hunting, and the Outdoors.

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