He, too, is getting reports of dead deer.
The deer hunters group pushed the DNR for the feeding program and is handling the distribution. The deer-feeding fund underwritten by 50 cents from every deer license sold is being tapped. DNR officials had allocated $170,000 from a $770,000 account, saying they wanted to save $600,000 for disease issues, including chronic wasting disease.
But Boggess said that once feeding begins, it should continue because deer become dependent on the feed.
Johnson said he orders feed week by week, depending on need. “We have lots of snow to get rid of before we can stop feeding,’’ he said. “If we continue feeding for a total of eight weeks, through May 2, the total cost would be about $302,000.’’
By comparison, about $1.3 million was spent on deer feeding in 1996.
About 1,000 volunteers are feeding around 16,000 deer at 1,000 sites in 13 permit areas, Johnson said. That’s a fraction of the northern deer herd, but Johnson said it’s better than doing nothing. He said the feeding “definitely’’ is having an impact and that volunteers report that deer being fed seem to be benefitting.
DNR officials oppose feeding wild deer, saying it doesn’t help deer on a population level and causes them to congregate, which could contribute to the spread of disease and make them vulnerable to predators, such as wolves.
Concern over deer populations dominated six “listening sessions’’ held recently around the state to get input from deer hunters. The sessions were at Brainerd, Cambridge, Bemidji, Morris, Nicollet and Virginia, and 45 to 90 people attended each.
The MDHA co-sponsored the gatherings, and Johnson was present at each.
“People want more deer,’’ he said. “People are skeptical the DNR has the right estimates for deer populations in their areas. They want [deer density] goals to be higher.’’
Telander said the DNR will consider the comments from participants and those made online.