A deer feeding ban remains in effect for 16 counties located in central, north-central and southeastern Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
“This time of year, we start to hear of people interested in feeding deer, especially when they see deer searching for food before plants start to green up,” said Erik Thorson, acting big game program leader with the DNR. “People can help deer by being aware of and following the feeding bans that still are in place – they aid in preventing the spread of disease.”
Feeding bans in central and north-central Minnesota are precautionary and were put in place surrounding two farms where multiple captive deer were infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD). Testing of hunter-harvested deer in these areas in fall 2017 did not detect CWD in the wild, but surveillance efforts will continue until the disease is not detected for three consecutive years. The bans remain in place through February 2019.
Central Minnesota counties affected by the ban are Kandiyohi; McLeod; Meeker; Stearns; Wright; and the portion of Renville County north of U.S. Highway 212.
North-central Minnesota counties affected are Aitkin; Crow Wing; Morrison; the portion of Cass County south of Minnesota highways 34 and 200; and the portion of Mille Lacs County north of County Road 11.
In the southeastern Minnesota counties of Fillmore, Houston, Olmsted, Mower and Winona, a ban on deer feeding and deer attractants remains in effect through Wednesday, June 27, and will likely be extended because of ongoing disease issues. In Fillmore County, 17 wild deer have been found to have CWD since fall 2016, when the disease was first discovered near Preston.
Feed includes corn, grain, salt, mineral blocks, fruits, vegetables, nuts, hay and other food that is capable of attracting or enticing deer. People who feed birds or small mammals must do so in a manner that prevents access by deer, or place the food at least 6 feet above the ground.
Food placed as a result of normal agricultural practices is generally exempted from the feeding ban, but cattle operators should take steps that minimize contact between deer and cattle.
One of the probable mechanisms for CWD spread among deer is over a food or attractant source that concentrates animals. Feeding bans are intended to reduce the number of areas where deer can come into close contact, either directly or indirectly.
“Even though people have good intentions, feeding often does more harm than good,” said Thorson. “In addition to spreading disease, feeding can lead to death when deer abruptly shift their diet or cause behavioral changes that end up harming the animals.”
More information about the precautionary feeding ban is available on the DNR’s website at mndnr.gov/cwd.