by Connie Oswald Stofko
If you feed deer in your backyard or at a park, you could be harming them instead of helping them. Bringing deer together at feeding sites increases their risk of contracting communicable diseases, such as chronic wasting disease, from other deer.
That’s why the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) prohibited deer feeding anywhere in New York State back in 2002.
Recently the DEC adopted a new regulation to provide a clearer definition of what does and does not constitute illegal feeding of deer. (Moose are also covered under this regulation, though I haven’t seen any moose in Western New York!)
For example, bird feeders can supply food for deer, even if you’re not trying to feed the deer. The new regulation clarifies that incidental feeding with a bird feeder will be considered a violation only if DEC has previously issued a written warning to the person responsible for the incidental feeding. This allows nuisance situations to be addressed without limiting bird feeding in general.
Other exceptions to the feeding prohibition include:
- Planting vegetation associated with agriculture or horticulture
- Plantings that enhance wildlife habitat conditions
- Feeding livestock
The regulation also establishes procedures for the legal use of a certain pesticide and device that kills ticks on deer, even though it uses corn to attract deer. 4-PosterTM Tickicide is dispensed via four rollers, or “posts,” attached to bait stations filled with corn. As deer eat the corn, the rollers deposit pesticide on their heads and necks. Tick-borne diseases pose a health threat to humans, so it’s in the public interest to use these devices in areas with high tick-borne disease rates, according to DEC.
The new regulation also requires retail products packaged for sale as food or edible attractants for wild deer or moose to carry a label clearly stating that such use is illegal in New York.
See more details of the new regulation here.
Feeding deer can be harmful
Feeding deer can be harmful to the deer, to humans and to the environment.
Feeding deer can:
- Increase the number of deer-vehicle collisions.
- Get deer used to human presence, leading to other dangerous interactions between deer and humans.
- Damage the natural habitat. Deer being fed also eat vegetation in the surrounding area, which can lead to overbrowsing. Plants in that area can be damaged or destroyed by the deer. The result is a habitat that supports fewer animals. In turn, the deer become dependent on artificial feeding.
- Decreased nutrition for deer during winter. Deer are ruminants similar to cows and have a multi-chambered stomach with a complicated digestive process. If the type of food the deer consume is suddenly changed through feeding by humans, it can take considerable time for the digestive process to adapt to the new food. The animal can receive little nutrition when it needs it most.
- Negatively affect deer behavior, leading to increased social conflict among deer.
- Alter the migratory movements of deer to critical wintering areas.