Is Feeding Suburban Deer Healthy?

Question: I am not a whitetail hunter, but I just love to feed the deer in my greenspace neighborhood. I have a battery operated feeder and have been feeding them deer corn and was told this is not as healthy as soybeans. Is this true and will soybeans work in my feeder?

Answer: First, let me say that the feeding of any wild animal by people should be considered purely supplemental. White-tailed deer should be no different. First, there are many arguments surrounding the feeding of whitetail deer, whether in rural hunting woods or in suburban areas such as the greenbelt around your house.

Whitetail are really neat critters that all sorts of people like for many different reasons. However, deer are fairly simple animals that require food, cover, water, and space. The food part is what we are talking about today.

It is true that soybeans are better than corn, but I don’t suggest you use either. I do not recommend any type of feeding, even protein pellets, in suburban settings, primarily because deer can exceed the carrying capacity of the habitat through the addition of supplemental foods.

I have seen and read about plant communities in housing developments and greenbelts destroyed by over-abundant deer herds time and time again. In almost every case it’s because of the addition of supplemental feed.

In nature, everything is about balance. Animal populations only grow when there is food to consume. However, any time food is artificially added to wildlife populations, particularly in the absence of active management, then problems can and will arise.

Deer populations are naturally limited by food availability. A whitetail population will continue to grow until it reaches the carrying capacity of the area, at which point it will reproduction will go to 0 because of a lack of nutrition. Population die-off will occur.

The addition of foods, even low quality foods such as corn, can cause deer populations to grow way beyond the ability of the natural environment to support them. As the population of deer grows so must the volume of supplemental food to support the increased number of animals. It turns into a nasty cycle and everyone, including the deer, suffer.

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