Hunters want deer fed, DNR reluctantly agrees to help — with restrictions

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 15, 2014 - 6:03 PM

The DNR feeds the deer herd once a decade or so, and grudgingly. Why now?

Photos from 1989: Officials say feeders won’t be used this winter; instead, feed will be scattered in the woods.

Photo: Photos by BILL MARCHEL • Special to the Star Trubune,

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced last week that it will launch controversial emergency deer feeding this winter in parts of northern Minnesota, though the agency strongly opposes feeding whitetails. But the feeding will be on a much smaller scale than the last effort, in 1996. DNR and Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) officials answer key questions about the topic below.


Why is the DNR opposed to feeding deer?

Officials say previous major feeding efforts in 1989 and 1996 did little to help deer. The program in 1989 reached only 11 percent of the deer, and a larger effort in 1996 reached about 20 percent. The DNR also is concerned feeding can encourage the spread of disease. “The science shows it doesn’t have a population level impact, and it increases the risk of disease transmission,’’ said Paul Telander, DNR wildlife section chief.


So why has the DNR decided to go ahead with deer feeding?

Basically because agency officials feel they have little choice. The Legislature established a deer feeding account in 1997, diverting 50 cents from each deer hunting license. In 2003, the Legislature allowed the DNR to use those funds to combat deer diseases. “We’ve been hearing from deer hunters about their concerns this winter, so we feel like we need to act in good faith on purposes of the account,’’ Telander said.


Do agencies elsewhere in the nation feed deer?

“I’m not aware of any other state that feeds whitetail deer,’’ said Ed Boggess, DNR fish and wildlife division director.


How will this winter’s feeding program compare to those in 1989 and 1996, the only other large-scale feeding efforts conducted by the DNR?

It will be minuscule. In 1989, about $750,000 was spent. In 1996, about $1.2 million was spent. The DNR is budgeting $170,000 this year. “We don’t know if it’s enough,’’ said Mark Johnson, MDHA executive director. “We may ask for more money later if we need it.’’


Why so little?

The DNR has about $770,000 in its feeding/deer disease account but wants to maintain $600,000 for disease efforts, including chronic wasting disease.


How many deer will be fed?

  • related content

  • DNR personnel load deer pellets into pickup truck in 1989 as part of a emergency deer feeding program launched because of a severe winter.

  • An emaciated carcass of doe lies in snow during March following long, severe winter in 1989.

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