Do you feed deer in the winter? Take the poll above.
D&DH Editor Dan Schmidt
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."
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."