Missouri Pulls Out the Nutritional Rug on More Deer

The state of Missouri recently expanded their ban of feeding deer from 29 counties to 41 counties. Their objective is to slow the spread of CWD, but likely this will cause an increase in prevalence because some deer have grown accustom to feed/minerals being available in their habitat. There is some evidence that CWD can be caused by an imbalance of micro minerals within the animal’s central nervous system. In counties that were previously able to use feed and minerals, deer will not be able to access enough of the vital nutrients they need in order to be healthy. If managers were allowed to supplement Copper, for example, not as many deer would succumb to CWD.

The Missouri Dept. of Conservation believes that if deer do not have access to feed or minerals, they apparently won’t touch each other.

What they fail to realize is that deer are a social species, and commonly groom, spar, and lick each other as part of their daily routine. In the rut, bucks lick a branch, and rub urinate on the ground in one specific area. Ten or more bucks are known to visit a single scrape, and each buck licks the same branch at the same spot. Are they going to BAN LICKING BRANCHES NEXT?!? If you remove the feed or minerals from the environment, they will still groom each other and contact other deer, but now they have less to eat.

The other unforeseen detrimental effect is that people will not altogether stop feeding when a ban is put in place. Do you know what people do when they think a rule is ridiculous? They break it. For one thing, it is nearly impossible to enforce. Conservation Officers would have to get warrants to go out and search private land for these feed and mineral sites, which they do not have time for. I would rather have these wardens chasing real poachers rather than pursuing the average Joe. Feeding will still occur, but now instead of a lot of people feeding, there are only a few. If you believe that feeding and putting out minerals artificially concentrates deer, then you compound that effect during a feeding ban as deer would congregate around the few remaining feed/mineral sites.

On a brighter note, Minnesota DNR recently conducted a survey to try and determine what people thought was important to include in their state wide Deer Plan. In that survey, only 10% of people thought that a statewide feeding ban was “very” important, compared to 43% that believed it was “not at all” important. I wonder if Missouri Department of Conservation surveyed hunters before they decided to expand feeding bans. Surely, they considered the hunter’s opinion before making such a drastic change to the way people manage their property for healthy deer, right?

-Tim Neuman, Wildlife Biologist

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