Do Not Feed Deer As Consequences Could Be Deadly — Warning For Those With Good Intentions This Winter

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“Do not feed the deer,” which is a warning coming from the wildlife biologists and going out to all the animal lovers who see the deer as hungry creatures during the winter months. There is a very good reason for not feeding the deer. Anyone who cares about these animals should know that it could actually be dangerous for the deer and possibly life-threatening if you give them food.

According to the Deer Wildlife Survival Guide, people are well-intentioned when they put food out for the deer in their neck of the woods, but those good intentions can turn deadly for the deer. These animals gain weight with winter approaching and their system slows down getting ready for the season when food is sparse, according to Tufts Wildlife Clinic.

The deer’s digestive systems matter a great deal when it comes to the deer surviving the harsh winter weather. The digestive system of a deer changes so the deer can absorb the nutrients it needs from the food that they find in the winter versus the spring, according to an excerpt from Deer Winter Survival from the Mass Wildlife Magazine.

The deer’s digestive system holds a host of microorganisms which include bacteria, protozoa, and fungi, along with the enzymes that allow the food the deer eats to get broken down so it can be digested by the animal. In the spring the food for the deer consists mostly of soft leafy vegetation and the digestive system changes to equip itself with these microorganisms as well as enzymes that will break down this food.

Deer in snowy field
Featured image credit: Karin JaehneShutterstock

In the winter, when the deer eats more grainy and hard food like twigs, and buds their digestive system has changed again. The transition in the digestive system of these animals slowly takes place as fall sets in. The deer’s digestive system gets ready to break down this tougher food so the deer will absorb the nutrients needed to stay alive.

It is usually in the cold winter months when people observe the deer searching for food that the animal lover in them prompts these kind folks to offer up some help by putting out food. What the biologists found was that help in the form of apples, corn, and deer pellets, which is what people tend to feed the deer, did more harm than good. Even Hay can disrupt the digestive system of a deer in winter, cites Tufts.

These foods disrupted the digestive system of the deer causing bloat, diarrhea, and damage to the first out of the four chambers of the stomach, which is called the rumen. In some cases, it can even cause death to the deer. High levels of lactic acid were produced as a by-product of the stomach’s chemistry while trying to digest the food offered by humans.

The lactic acid was sometimes absorbed into the bloodstream and rise to potentially deadly levels. Even if the deer does survive this, its rumen can sustain irreversible damage leaving the deer with a lifetime of stomach problems.

Another danger when feeding deer, according to Wide Open Spaces, it causes deer to congregate in larger numbers. This can be a breeding ground for the transmission of diseases. It also causes deer to go off their original travel route, sometimes putting the deer in harm’s way by crossing a road while it is on a path to get to that food.