The Downside of Feeding Whitetail Deer

When deer are abnormally close to one another, contagious diseases or parasites are more easily spread. Wildlife pathologists now suspect that artificially-fed deer in high populations may develop disorders that lead to peculiar habits, such as eating hair from themselves and other deer.

Early last spring, Knight says he had the unpleasant experience of seeing a yearling buck infested with black, wort-like growths. These growths, which are caused by a contagious virus, had completely covered the deer’s face. The blinded animal was running into fences, trees and other obstructions and had severely cut itself before being put out of its misery by a wildlife biologist. This deer was killed within a half mile of the woman’s feed station mentioned earlier.

The consequences of artificial feeding mentioned up to now are direct and easily observed. There are, however, other less obvious implications.

Many deer visiting feed stations are carrying fawns. If the food being provided is not as abundant as natural browse, not only the doe, but also her fawns may be undernourished.

Artificial feeding may force deer to ignore their instincts. Deer have evolved to fear man. This has helped them survive. Artificial feeding forces them to ignore the presence of people. In some cases, this could be their downfall.

Finally, artificial feeding would have to increase infinitely to feed all the animals that would come.

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