This Does More Harm Than Good

Good Samaritans who think they’re helping deer by putting out feed in the winter
may actually be endangering the health of the herd, says New Hampshire Fish and Game
Department wildlife biologist Kent Gustafson.

“People mean well, but don’t realize the damage they’re doing. Feeding wild white-tailed
deer may actually reduce the animals’ ability to survive a New England winter, making
them more vulnerable to starvation, predation, disease and vehicle collisions,” says
Gustafson, who is the Deer Project Leader for Fish and Game. “Despite people’s good
intentions, supplemental feeding creates an artificial situation in which the deer,
the habitat and the public may suffer.”

We don’t know where the following photo was taken (it made the email rounds this morning),
but it is a stark reminder of how feeding stations congregate deer.

Many people think of feeding deer like feeding the birds, but there are some critical
differences that make feeding deer unhealthy for the deer population, for plants near
the feed site and for passing motorists. One scientific study in Maine concluded that
forest plant communities can be permanently altered within 1,000 yards of traditional
feeding sites.

“Quality natural habitat provides the best insurance for deer survival in winter,”
says Gustafson. “If you care about deer, leave them alone — let them be wild, and
find natural foods and appropriate winter shelter on their own. The bottom line is,
please don’t feed the deer, and please discourage your neighbors, friends and relatives
from engaging in this harmful activity.”

— Daniel E. Schmidt

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One thought on “This Does More Harm Than Good

  1. suppressed@unknown.org

    can’t quote word for word, but from what I remember reading in D&DH mag. is deer need the bacteria they get from eating browse, that in fact they can starve to death with a full stomach. the bacteria helps in the digestion of their food which they wouldn’t get from supplemental feeding. Posted by: BUCKWAD

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