Feeding deer not always a kind option

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TRURO - Please, don't feed the deer.

Connie Babineau of Truro stands near a site behind her home where she recently saw two dogs eating a deer they had taken down. Babineau chased away the dogs and called the police, who came and killed the badly mangled deer, but she cautions people who think they are doing the deer a favour by feeding them.

That is the plea Connie Babineau would like to bestow on her fellow Truro residents after watching two dogs feeding on a deer they had taken down across the fence from her backyard.

Although she chased the dogs away, the deer was too badly injured to be saved.

"They just completely mangled it and the police had to shoot it," she said, of the recent incident.

Babineau often sees deer behind her house, which backs onto a wooded area. And she said it is her belief the deer population has become more prevalent in urban areas because people put out food in the mistaken belief they are doing them a favour.

"There's people around town feeding the deer."

But after doing some research on the subject, Babineau said such well-intentioned actions can actually become a detriment to the deer.

"I love the deer and I enjoy them, though in the summertime they completely destroy my flowers," she said. "I just think if people knew that they were doing more harm than good that they might not feed them."

Mark Pulsifer, a biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, shares that sentiment and he said people can actually kill deer with their kindness.

"In most cases we don't encourage people to feed deer unless it's some dire emergency circumstance." he said.

And while this winter has been somewhat harsh from a human perspective, Pulsifer said it has not been extreme enough to warrant such activity.

Normally, deer naturally build up fat stocks in their bodies to get them through the winter. As well, the microbes in their bellies change between fall and winter to accommodate a different type of diet.

Whereas deer in the fall will feed on succulent, leafy materials, in the wintertime their digestive system changes so they can forage on harder, woodier substances such as tree buds and twigs.

"If people feed them food that they are not used to, in too great a quantity, then what happens is the deer don't have the capacity to digest it because their stomach is expecting something quite different," Pulsifer said.

hsullivan@trurodaily.com

Twitter: @tdn harry

If you are going to feed deer, a proper feeding program requires the following essential elements:

- An efficient delivery system to get food to deer on an established trail network.

- A method to deliver the food until the end of winter, and an adequate supply of the right type of food.

- As well, do not overfeed. A half cup or a cup of apple cores, potato peelings or commercial deer food, is sufficient for each deer, per day.

Organizations: Department of Natural Resources

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