Backyard deer feeding really taking off

- February 8th, 2010

On Saturday at 4:30 PM my backyard deer feeding program took on a life of its own.

 

 

Up until this weekend, the most deer I ever had feeding at one time was 7.  I only knew of 3 other deer that came regularly but never seemed to feed at the same time as my ‘lucky seven’.

 

Then this Saturday all hell broke loose when an unbelievable 14 deer showed up in my back yard at the same time, eager for food!

 

Sure, the two family groups totalling seven were there and Granddaddy too, plus another young buck we call Garfield and a buck known as the War Vet. 

 

Then a mystery buck showed up to make 11 deer, and he was followed by three more I have never in my life seen before.

 

I have fortunately started offering feed at several small piles, as to keep them all separated and not fighting over food.

 

My youngest daughter Grace has even started to keep a log of deer activity, and now documents all the animals that come and go.

 

It is much like an after school project for Grace, a girl who like her Dad, has a real affinity for the Great Outdoors.

 

And just so nobody panics, the pelletized feed I offer these deer is meant only as a supplement to their usual winter diet of browse. Since I have been providing a small amount of  feed regularly since early fall, the deer’s’ digestive systems have adapted to take full advantage of it.

 

Thanks to Richie’s Feed & Seed for a wonderful blend they offer, with the perfect mixture of protein and carbs for a white-tailed deer’s winter nutritional requirements.

 
Outdoorsguy

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19 comments

  1. Eva says:

    For a few years now my husband and I have been feeding the deer. We buy special deer feed from a local farming supply store and buy carrots wholesale and slightly blemished apples from the grocery at a reduced price. We also start the feeding in Sept. when they come for the apples falling from the trees (and yes, our garden has only ornamentals that the deer do not eat. I plant my vegetables in screen houses.) We have up to 16 deer twice each day. We distribute the feed in small buckets around the garden and along the deer trails in the forest close to the house. All our visitors are adult females and youngsters, only once or twice have we seen a young buck — but then again, we live in a prime hunting area though we do not hunt ourselves.

  2. Jim Poushinsky says:

    I hope that backyard feeding stations for deer don’t “take off”, and that you will rethink what you are doing and recommending, for the good of all concerned. This is an El Nino mild winter with very little snow, which are ideal conditions for deer to survive on their own, without any help from humans. The MNR has done much research on feeding deer, and only recommends it during long cold winters with deep snow, when deer fat reserves are likely to be abnormally depleted.

    Feeding of deer can cause an increase in the deer population beyond the carrying capacity of the natural habitat to support them, leading to overbrousing and catastrophic declines in deer numbers in bad winters. Deer can become concentrated around feeding stations, causing them to overbrouse and destroy that deer yarding area.
    They can also become aggressive and fight at stations, as you have already noted. Domiant animals can take over the stations and not give other deer access.

    Deer concentrations around feeding stations can cause large groups to cross nearby roads, greatly increasing the
    risk of collisions with moving vehicles. Ottawa already has the highest number of deer collisions in the province, averaging 1000 such collisions annually.

    I would support feeding deer in extreme winter conditions, but not this winter. I am also opposed to the two coyote/wolf killing contests for hunters now taking place, which are an excuse for an illegal cull by another name.
    Slaughtering the deer’s natural predators while feeding the deer herds in a mild winter so their numbers drastically increase is a recipe for man-made wildlife disaster, and increased carnage on our roads. Think about it.

  3. Jim Poushinsky says:

    It has just been brought to my attention that the MNR has also posted an on-line request that people NOT feed deer this season, for similar reasons to those I have given. See http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/258068.pdf

  4. jeff.morrison says:

    Jim, I am beginning to think you would oppose of any human involvement in wildlife activity. Yes, I am well aware of what the MNR suggests and I see that you’ve had a good read through their ‘Guidelines to Winter Deer Feeding’..

    Just so you know, the Ministry discourages winter deer feeding simply because most people do not know enough about winter deer requirements, and may actually be hindering the animal’s chance at survival. I am well aware of this and consider myself to be knowledgeable enough to effectively undertake this task. I have, in fact, published several major magazine articles on the subject, which I could send you if you like.

    Another pitfall winter deer feeders fall into is the consistency issue, which is why I included that disclaimer in my post. If you start feeding deer in the fall, you must continue throughout the winter, but most people know that. Supplemental deer feeding is meant to, as the term implies, supplement their winter diet. Not replace it!

    And I have never suggested that everyone start their own backyard program, I am merely relaying the information from my own experience. I have done enough deer yard and whitetail population work with the MNR in the past to know what I’m doing. I’ve also managed a large-scale winter deer yard in Quebec and studied the biology and management of the species for many years. If, at any time, I felt I was hindering the deer’s chance at survival, I would discontinue.

    As you noted in your reading of the MNR website, over-browsing can be an issue in years of deep snow, but that is not the case this year. The animals spend 15 minutes feeding at my place and the rest of the day browsing in the backwoods anywhere they wish. They travel for miles during the day, browsing and bedding, and in no way is my supplemental feed harming them.

    As far as carrying capacity goes, I’m not sure where you’ve been the last couple of years but eastern ON and western QC is recovering from a major winter deer die-off – two years ago. Although they have not indicated exactly what percentage of animals perished that year, 20% – 40% is accepted range of die-off and I tend to agree with the higher end.

    Sure, the MNR suggests we only feed deer during extremely harsh winters with very deep snow, but where were they two years ago?

    They have a program called “Emergency Deer Feeding”..which is meant to be put into effect in those years with deplorable conditions – such as we had two years ago – with some of the deepest snow in recorded history. But where was the Emergency Deer Feeding program then? The MNR decided, in their infinite wisdom, that conditions were not severe enough to call a state of emergency thus warranting the program, and as a result over 1/4 of the deer population perished!

    Trust me Jim, I’ve seen the bones and carcasses and heard the reports from all around. To see my resident deer huddled together along one trail in search of food that year was something I will never forget. And there were 2-3 times as many deer in the backwoods at the time. More than half of them died, which is partially the reason why I now provide supplemental feed.

    So, perhaps instead of dumping on me after reading one government website, you should educate yourself further and find out what has really been happening out there!

    Outdoorsguy

  5. Jim Poushinsky says:

    Hi Jeff, I agree with you that deer should be fed during cold and deep snow winters such as two years ago, and commend you for doing so regardless of the MNR’s falure to feed deer at that time. However I do not believe you are doing the deer population a favour by continuing to feed them during this mild winter with little snow, when natural food is plentiful and easy for them to get at.

    You may be right that the deer coming to your feeders are ranging far and wide, so not depleting the natural food supply by over browsing your area. However by your own admission they are becoming more aggressive as the numbers coming to your back yard feeding stations increase. And you cannot deny that the increasing concentration of deer attracted to your back yard pose an increasing threat of collision with motorists on the roads they must cross to get to and from your place. Motorists do slow down when a deer or two or three cross the highway, but they don’t expect 6 to a dozen. After a few cross and there is a gap, drivers may think that is it and accelerate into the next group to unexpectedly emerge from the bush.

    I don’t believe we should be interfering unnecessarily with wildlife populations. I think feeding deer this winter risks causing harm without doing any good. I would like to see you channel your enthusiasm for this practice into bad winters when everybody can agree that deer genuinely need help and can mobilize to support a feeding program.

    I would also like to see people recognize the importance of wolves and coyotes in managing the size of the deer population, and an end to the fear based propaganda for a senseless and illegal cull of these animals.

    I think it is good to have this forum for discussing different viewpoints, and wouldn’t bother posting here if I didn’t think you and your supporters could be persuaded to change your minds by reasoned argument. Freedom of speech is what makes our democracy the best form of government on Earth.

  6. Jim Poushinsky says:

    I’ve been investigating this matter further and everywhere I look professionals are asking people not to feed deer. The risk of spreading Chronic Wasting Disease (the deer equivelant of Mad Cow) has led to an end to deer feeding programs in the west, and Ontario’s government is passing legislation giving the Minister the power to ban it here as well.

  7. Rick Poulin says:

    Jim you seem to be an intelligent man with what you percieve to be well thought out arguments but I must disagree with you on a couple of points.

    First there is nothing illegal about the coyote culls. MNR has investigated these “contests” and declared them legal.

    Second is the CWD myth. The gross over reaction to the miniscule possibility of and consequences of CWD is one of todays great boondogles. Nowhere where CWD has been detected has the infection rate excedded .5% Colorado where the disease originated is still one of the best and most desired hunting location in North America. Colorado does nothing to detect or control CWD other than hunter diligence. So why the “sky is falling” policies of other State and Provicial Wildlife Agencies? I am involved with the OMNR CWD study as a volunteer so speak with some inside knowledge.

    Feeding deer in the manner Outdoorguy and others employ to me is similar to back yord bird feeding. A few go overboard but most like myself do it to enjoy seeing birds/deer. In no way does this practice have more than a superficial impact on the oevrall bird/deer population.

  8. paul bent hooks says:

    feeding deer in my back yard it’s great to watch , to have the coyotes bite you or take off with my garbge bags now thats a big no no with me . and i’m only 5min. from orleans . i think i’ll start eating coyote !

  9. Jim Poushinsky says:

    Rick, a coyote cull is illegal, a “contest” is not. This legal loophole is being used to avoid prosecution for promoting the slaughter of coyotes in the Ottawa area. I think you would agree these contests are a cull by another name, since the purpose is to greatly reduce if not wipe out the local coyote population?

    As for Chronic Wasting prion disease, I don’t know what myths you are referring to, but in fact it is widespread in the deer and elk population in the west, and did cause the loss of the mule deer herd at the Toronto zoo. Whether or not it has reached wild deer in Ontario yet isn’t clear. The fact it hasn’t turned up in wild deer tested so far doesn’t mean it isn’t here, because the testing is voluntary and most deer killed aren’t tested.

    There is tremendous pressure on the meat producing industry to “shoot, shovel, and shut-up” rather than report sick animals, as former Premier Ralph Klein advised beef farmers in Alberta to do with cattle showing Mad Cow symptoms. Since consumers eating infected meat may not develop CJD disease until 20 years after, it is not an issue for politicians thinking in a 5 year until the next election time frame. However, there is an exploding epidemic of Alzheimer’s Disease now happening, and the symptoms of rapid onset are identical to CJD. Nobody is autopsying those dying of Alzheimer’s to see if it is in fact CJD, because the powers-that-be don’t want to know. Why would the hunting industry be any different? The bottom line is profit, not health.

    Do you realize Ottawa’s sewage sludge is being spread on agricultural lands throughout the Ottawa area, and the accidental release of infectious prions from sheep autopsied with scrapie into the sewer was not considered sufficient reason to divert the sewage for safe interrment in a landfill? Canada tests 1 in 30,000 animals for BSE, and the US tests far fewer proportionately. In Europe and Japan every slaughtered animal
    is tested before allowing the meat to be sold for human consumption. Which meat does your common sense tell you is safer for your children to eat? I think all ruminant meat should be tested for prion disease before eating, including deer. The test is simple and cheap, but not allowed by a government controlled by industry.
    Think about it.

  10. Rick Poulin says:

    Jim I do not “agree these contests are a cull by another name, since the purpose is to greatly reduce if not wipe out the local coyote population? They are ment to provide a little more incentive for hunters to again consider hunting coyotes.

    From a historical perspective coyote hunting used to be a very popular way for hunters to get together, run dogs and get a return on their efforts. Bounties were common when I started hunting – yea I am that old! LOL Fur prices were good as well. As it was a slow time of year (winter) for farmers they had the time to get out with their freinds for a days recreation.

    In this modern age many hunters have stopped coyote hunting. Coyotes have flourished and become less wary. These contests just like deer hunting contests are ancilliary. They provide a way for hunters to come together and share a common interest. The prizes are not large enough to entice anyone to try to “wipe out the local coyote population.” Besides the last few hundred years have proven throughout the coyotes range it is not possible. Dispite the best of efforts there are more coyotes roaming North America now than there ever have been.

    The term “cull” to me is a sanctioned officially run endevour that would be legal. The Alaska Wolf Cull would be an example. So I do not understand how you can equate “cull and “illegal.”.

    As for thinking about CWD and CJD I beleive the governmant has a vested interest in perpetuating the “sky is falling” reaction to draw attention away from their many other more important short commings.

  11. Keebler says:

    Jim,
    You raise some valid points and yes, it’s important to have a number of viewpoints, opinions and research involved in discussions. I think it’s what makes our country better.

    I haven’t looked at studies, I realize that media can sometimes construe our line of thinking by promoting one topic (ie. more coyote attacks in the news lately as opposed to bear issues in the North where that population is out of control), but I know one thing – I’ve lived in Stittsville for 12 years now and never saw a coyote until 2 years ago.

    Nowadays, they are regular guests on the local farmer’s fields – 2 minutes away from our subdivision, which hasn’t grown in years, and I’ve seen them while riding my bike on the transcanada trail.

    I don’t need much to realize that they’re population has increased. Like it or not, we have to help control their population because there isn’t a predator to balance their levels. With more ‘yotes going after the local deer population which took a massive hit in that bad winter 2 years ago, we need to step in – not for hunting reasons, but to help maintain the deer population.

    If you don’t believe that one, you seem to have the knack for studies and research – start looking into the black bear population in Northern Ontario. With the cancelled spring hunt, the bear population has EXPLODED! Not only are bears also visiting neighbourhoods, they’re also massacring moose calf populations. Again, like or not, we hunted bears twice a year in the past and now only once per year. By cancelling the spring hunt, we cancelled a part of the population control for bears.

    Last year, I saw 2 adult cow (female) moose without any calves – ask any hunter and they’ll tell you that is very, very rare. In a week of tramping the bush (we don’t sit by log cuts waiting for moose), we saw only 1 calf track and we cover alot of ground. Add that to the fact I had 3 different locals tell me to shoot any bear I saw and not tell anyone – tells me there’s a problem there. Those 3 local people ALL told me that they’ve seen the bears following the pregnant cows in the spring. Apparently the bears wait until the cows drop to give birth and eat the easy newborn calf.

    I do recognize this is part of the life cycle and sure, bears need to eat too. But my point is that we were part of the population control and 50% of that was taken away so it doesn’t take a mathematician to realize that of course the numbers are going to explode.

    I would love to see any research you find because I’ve been looking into and trying to find out how we can approach the MNR. I’ve never hunted bear before so my motive isn’t there. My motive is twofold:
    1. yes, I like moose hunting and of course I want that population to survive – I’ll admit that
    but
    2. ALL hunters are conservationists and I’m more concerned for what the population will be like in 2 years, not for hunting, but for the local moose herds themselves. Not as many calves being born means that many less produceable female moose in years to come.

    Cheers,
    keebler

  12. jeff.morrison says:

    Rick, Keebler:

    Well, I was going to jump in here but you gents seem to holding your own quite nicely.

    I wait with baited breath for the arguments Jim will come up with now, and do encourage others to jump in with their thoughts on this..

    Gotta go feed the deer, but I’ll be back soon!

    Outdoorsguy

  13. Jim Poushinsky says:

    Hi Keebler, the MNR did a study which I read a few years back and now can’t find in the thousands of hits that come up on the MNR website for black bear research. However as I recall the research, it found the reason for the explosive increase in the black bear population was due to the fluctuating climate extremes caused by global warming.

    It started with a berry crop failure that triggered all the female bears to come into heat together as a survival mechanism. The next year was a bountiful berry crop year, so all the cubs did well. Then there was another year of crop failure followed by another bumper berry crop year, so again there was a huge increase in the bear population. There were also some terrible years for forest fires which cleared huge tracts for new berry patches, that are filled with bears. The numbers of bears killed in the previous Spring Bear hunts were insignificant by comparison to the population increases from the alternating berry crop years, and would not have made much difference. It will be interesting to see if the two past summers in a row of cold wet weather and poor berry crops have caused a decline in the bear population. They’ll be lean and hungry this Spring.

    I spend my summers on the North Shore of Lake Superior, so am well aware of the problems with bears. A sensible policy would be to trap the bears coming into communities and relocate them (as is done now) and tag them. All repeat offenders could then be readily identified and killed. This would eliminate the bears causing the most trouble, while allowing the ones that stay away from communities (or learn to stay away) to live. At present bears are either killed indiscriminately by upset residents, or allowed to return time and again by the MNR.

    An aggressive 400 pound bear that breaks into people’s homes and has lost all fear of people and dogs is a serious threat that needs to be dealt with, unlike the occasional coyote that people consider a nuisance here. People have been attacked and killed by rogue black bears, though it doesn’t make the news down south.
    I do have a gun that I will use if lives are threatened, but so far the bears I’ve encountered haven’t behaved any worse than teenagers with bad attitudes. We’ve been able to avoid them, and the MNR has been able to live trap them.

    The bear hunts have minimal impact on the bear population, and do not target the bears causing problems in the towns. They are hardly sporting events, as the bears are lured to feeding stations, so the hunters can easily shoot them. I wouldn’t call that “hunting”, anymore than catching fish in a barrel is “fishing”.

    As for moose numbers, I’ve had 3 near collisions in the past 5 years on the North Shore of Lake Superior, and passed a dozen more at the sides of the road. If their numbers are in decline I suspect it is due to the whitetail deer moving north into moose territory with global warming. The deer carry a parasite that is fatal to moose. There are now deer all along the North Shore and on some islands in Lake Superior.
    The increase in vegetation in northern Ontario due to the Greenhouse Effect is also phenomenal. Tag alders I cut down 5 years ago are now 15 feet high, and interlace into inpenetrable jungle along bush roads. Storms are increasing in intensity, I built my cottage with hurricane ties, and winds gusting to 100 km/hr tested it last year. The real challenge is to hold together in 300 km winds, which will likely be upon us once the Arctic summer ice completely melts off in the next few years, and the sun’s heat is no longer reflected off the ice but warms the Arctic Ocean instead. Houses built to the old standards are going to come apart under such high winds. People should be reinforcing their homes now, before it’s too late.

  14. Jim Poushinsky says:

    Rick, I attended the City Hall Comittee Meeting where Council was told twice by City officials that it is illegal to cull coyotes. I’m taking their word for it. The Osgoode Hunting & Fishing Club called their hunt “The Great Coyote Cull Contest”. If it was called “The Great Coyote Cull” I presume it would be illegal. I agree that the past and present contests have little effect on the coyote population. What I don’t want is an organized attempt to slaughter or poison large numbers, because such culls have been proven ineffective and harmful.

    Yes, there have been periodic coyote/wolf hunts in rural Ottawa. I remember one in the 1970s when I was nearly killed by a volley of bullets that whizzed past me on both sides, while I was working in my bush. Hunters on the road were firing at a wolf that their dog was pursuing and running straight towards me. That experience taught me such hunts are dangerous for people in the populated rural urban fringe. I am still in a designated hunting area, so have posted my property with No Hunting signs. If any more bullets come my way I will be sorely tempted to shoot back, but as a law abiding person will restrain myself and call the police.

    As for CWD and CJD, the government has it’s head in the sand and is doing nothing to protect the public. Try doing a Google search for these topics and read the research and what people have to say if you want to get the whole story. I’ve hardly eaten any beef since Mad Cow first appeared in Alberta and I realized the government was doing nothing to protect consumers, just public relations for the cattle industry. In the States millions of downer cows are destroyed every year without testing to see if they had Mad Cow, because the cattle industry doesn’t want to risk another world boycott of their beef.

    I don’t even want to think about unsuspecting people taking their children to MacDonalds for a hamburger made from parts of hundreds of untested cows. Kids eating Mad Cow (BSE) prions will be dying in their 20s & 30s of CJD. That’s not the future I want for my grandchildren’s generation. We owe it to them to insist the government do full and proper testing of all slaughtered and downer cattle for BSE. Such tests can easily be done in the slaughterhouses for a couple of cents a pound as happens in Europe and Japan. Who wouldn’t be willing to pay a little to know their meat is safe? And why wouldn’t you want a similar testing service for elk and deer?

  15. paul bent hooks says:

    Hey JEFF if you want to get the kids or yourself laughing ,at the deer feeder tie an apple to a string and hang it from the tree at there hight, the deer will go around in circles trying to get it . They do give up after while and go back to the regular feed.

  16. Rick Poulin says:

    Jim I do not know the context of this satement “I attended the City Hall Comittee Meeting where Council was told twice by City officials that it is illegal to cull coyotes.” I suspect they are taking about unlicenced people in areas where shooting a firearm is prohibited. However a licenced hunter or trapper has the legal authority to “cull.” if all laws are observed. A”cull” is not per say illegal.

    ‘If it was called “The Great Coyote Cull” I presume it would be illegal.’ NO

    “What I don’t want is an organized attempt to slaughter or poison large numbers, because such culls have been proven ineffective and harmful.” Agree 100% Poisoning is an environmental disaster with broad reaching unwanted side effects.

    As far as the Bear reserch during my yeasr work as a government biologist I was on occation told to talor my reserch to come up with theories that supported the sponcoring agencies agenda. I was not told to lie or mislead but I was told to provide credible supportive possible results. Thus I am a little jaundiced towards so called “expert” opinions. In wildlife reserch there is never just one all inclusive theory.

  17. Iggy says:

    this is funny, the antis seem to be taking over
    saying that baiting bears is not hunting is funny,
    says who, an anti hunter?
    and trapping bears and moving them hahahaha
    works for under a week, till they find their way
    back, or get killed by the bear that they unintentionally
    invaded the territory of. Ask the MNR how many bears
    were trapped twice, they won’t make the number public,
    because it’s huge. It seems that it’s OK to kill the bear then,
    but not let hunters hunt them. Double standard.
    Back when there was a spring bear hunt, a lot of bears were taken
    by American hunters, and there was NO overpopulation of bears.
    As far as berry crops go, this too is silly unfounded information. The
    berry population near Sudbury where I bear hunt was very good last year
    yet in other areas very poor, typical of most summers, yet the over abundance
    of bears is a province wide problem.

  18. jeff.morrison says:

    Thanks Paul, I think I’ll try that!

    Outdoorsguy

  19. Sherry says:

    Iv been feeding deer several yrs now but they need more water in my back yard. We did our homework & realized there water has decreased & they have so far to go & all the fawns too. I put a bucket of water tonight. lol Its worth a try. Any suggestions ? I loveeeeeeeee my deer !

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