Food for thought on deer feeding

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 12, 2014 - 12:37 AM

Some deer hunters want more of their dollars used for emergency deer feeding.

The solution or the problem? About 65 tons of deer feed, paid for by deer hunters and held in a fund designated for deer feeding, has been distributed since the emergency feeding program began last week.

Photo: Mark Johnson • Minnesota Deer Hunters Association,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Over the past 16 years Minnesota deer hunters have contributed about $5.5 million to an account originally intended to pay for emergency deer feeding to help whitetails survive winters.

Most of that money — $4.8 million — has been spent, but none on feeding deer, until now.

This month the Department of Natural Resources has allocated $170,000 from the account — funded with 50 cents from every deer hunting license — to feed deer in 13 permit areas of northern Minnesota. The program started Thursday, and so far about 130,000 pounds of feed has been distributed, the first of up to 1 million pounds by winter’s end.

It’s the first state deer feeding program in 18 years.

So where has the rest of the deer hunters’ contribution gone? Why hasn’t the fund been used to feed deer before now? And why is so little being spent this winter to feed deer?

Several things happened since the Legislature created the deer feeding account in 1996, essentially directing the DNR to feed deer during severe winters — action the agency has opposed. For starters, a series of mild winters beginning in 1998 made deer feeding mostly a moot point. Yet money from deer licenses continued to accumulate in the fund, reaching $1.4 million in 2002.

Then chronic wasting disease (CWD) surfaced in wild deer in Wisconsin, and the DNR went to the Legislature in 2002 to change the name and purpose of the account to allow spending money on CWD surveillance, as well as deer feeding. The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association approved the change but successfully fought to retain “emergency deer feeding’’ in the account name.

That fall, CWD was found in a captive deer herd in Minnesota, heightening concern that the devastating brain disease could spread to the state’s wild deer herd.

In 2003, the DNR spent $400,000 on CWD — the first time the account was tapped. Overall, the DNR has spent $2.8 million since then on CWD. The agency went back to the Legislature in 2003 to expand the use of the account on other moose, elk or deer health issues. That change came in handy when bovine tuberculosis was found in cattle and wild deer in northwestern Minnesota in 2005.

The DNR spent about $1.4 million from the account combating bovine TB from 2008-2011. It also has spent $314,000 on elk and moose health and another $87,000 on general health issues.

But since the account was created, few winters were severe enough to prompt emergency deer feeding. Until now. In 1998, the DNR and MDHA produced a report for the Legislature explaining how future emergency deer feeding programs would be handled — primarily through volunteers — and establishing feeding criteria based on the agency’s winter severity index (WSI). (That report said areas with a WSI of 100 by mid February were severe; now the DNR considers a WSI of 180 at the end of winter to be severe.)

“This winter is the first time that the criteria has been met,’’ said Ed Boggess, DNR fish and wildlife division director.

Still, the agency continues to have major reservations about feeding wild deer, underscored by a proposal in 2010 to ban recreational deer feeding, which failed at the Legislature.

“We have two main concerns,’’ Boggess said. “The potential increase in the risk of spreading disease, and that it doesn’t help deer at the population scale.’’

And if deer are fed in the wrong places, it can cause them to leave good winter cover, exposing them to elements, or entice them to cross roads, which can be hazardous to deer and motorists.

“It’s not like it doesn’t hurt anything [to feed deer],’’ Boggess said. “It may actually hurt things.’’

He added: “Deer are very well adapted to our Minnesota winters. After those back-to-back severe winters [in 1995-96 and 1996-97] we had normal deer populations within three years, and we had record populations within six years.’’

But Mark Johnson, MDHA executive director, said his group continues to support deer feeding and believes it can help some deer survive a tough winter. More than 400 volunteers are helping distribute feed this year, which he hopes will reach at least 20,000 deer — a small fraction of the estimated 1 million deer in the state. Many others are feeding deer on their own this winter, he said.

  • related content

  • Where the deer feeding/disease account money has gone

    Wednesday March 12, 2014

    Deer feeding/disease accountThe DNR’s deer feeding/disease account, created in 1997, is funded with 50 cents from every deer hunting licenses...

  • Gophers anglers are golden at national tourney

    Wednesday March 12, 2014

    College National Bass Fishing Championship is the first for a northern school.

  • The severe winter has hunters worried about the survival of deer and agitating for a deer feeding program. The DNR instituted a feeding program but worries it might do as much harm as good.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: C. Frias 2 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa 16
San Francisco - WP: S. Romo 4 FINAL
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 2
Boston 1 Bottom 5th Inning
Pittsburgh 5
Toronto 0 Top 6th Inning
Baltimore 4
Washington 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Atlanta 0
Miami 3 Bottom 6th Inning
NY Mets 2
NY Yankees 2 Top 6th Inning
Tampa Bay 1
Cincinnati 1 Bottom 3rd Inning
Chicago Cubs 2
Chicago WSox 1 Top 3rd Inning
Kansas City 0
Cleveland 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Houston 0
Detroit 4 Top 2nd Inning
Minnesota 3
Milwaukee 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
St. Louis 0
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Wilson
Texas - D. Holland 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
Philadelphia - C. Hamels 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close