Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials will release money from a special fund to provide supplemental food for wild deer in the northeast portion of the state.
The deer are struggling due to the harsh weather conditions this year, which have included relentless snow, massive drifts and sub-freezing nighttime temperatures that have lasted for weeks. The DNR has a “winter severity index” it uses as a gauge of how deer are impacted, and
some areas are at 120 or greater on the scale that shows problems starting at 100.
According to the Duluth News Tribune, the money comes from a fund set up in the late 1990s following severe weather that crippled deer populations. A 50-cent surcharge on each deer license sold was put into a fund, which now has more than $770,000; the DNR is releasing $170,000 for this year’s supplemental feeding.
The move is not without controversy, as DNR officials have resisted pleas from hunters to feed the deer. Officials cite the agency’s decade-old fight against chronic wasting disease and bovine tuberculosis, at a cost of $10 million, and fear the diseases could crop up again by concentrating deer in feeding locations.
DNR wildlife chief Paul Telander told the News Tribune that officials are unsure yet how the money or deer food will be provided for the effort.
“We’re still working on the details, but we expect the lion’s share of work to be done by the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association chapters,’’ Telander said. “We still strongly believe that feeding deer is not necessary, that it doesn’t have a significant impact on the overall deer population and that it can have a detrimental effect due to the spread of disease.”
The deer association has 62 chapters and more than 16,000 members. Executive Director Mark Johnson said he understands the DNR’s concerns, but “that money was collected and set aside for this purpose, and a lot of my members in northern Minnesota think it’s time to use it.’’