Deer among mountain snowpack

Don't Feed the Deer!

The winter cold has set in outside, but please don’t try to feed the deer! These animals are adapted to live through harsh winters, and feedings actually lead to higher risk of habitat destruction, disease, and mortality.

During the warmer months, white-tailed deer will eat enough vegetation to build up an insulating layer of fat that they will then live off of in the winter, allowing them to hide from the cold by staying put in a sheltered area. The deer naturally restrict their food intake, conserving their energy by leaving the shelter as little as possible in the winter months to make their fat layer last through the season and into spring.

When humans put out supplemental feed for the deer, the scent lures these mammals out of their shelters. Their trek out to the feed location requires a large energy expenditure (burning some of their precious fat) which may not be compensated by the feed—the scent of the feed can last longer than the food itself, meaning that some of the deer will end up arriving to an empty trough, putting them at a dangerous disadvantage for the rest of the winter season. Even when food is still present, the deer prefer the natural vegetation and can overbrowse the area, wreaking havoc on the local environment.

Additionally, for deer, more isn’t merrier! A supplemental feed site can concentrate groups of deer in a single location at higher densities than they would naturally congregate. Diseases spread easily in these close quarters, contributing to the increased mortality rates seen during supplemental feed programs.

This winter season, make your community and your environment a better place by sharing your bounty with a local food bank instead of local deer!