For the first time in 17 years, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is approving emergency deer feeding in the northern part of the state.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, extreme cold and deep snow have led to the decision, which came after a series of meetings between the DNR and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA), which spearheaded the issue with the support of the majority of the state's 500,000 hunters.
The DNR had been reluctant in the past to allow feeding, even under desperate circumstances, citing its high cost and uncertain effectiveness. Deer feeding also leads to congregating and gathering, which can promote disease spreading as well as create a "sitting duck" situation for predators, most likely wolves.
But the DNR's decision needed to be made, especially after the commissioner, Tom Landwehr, had reported not seeing a deer from his stand in four years.
A special pellet mix, easily digestible and full of nutrients, will be used. Volunteers from the MDHA and other groups will disperse the feed by snowmobile to areas known to be winter homes for deer. The cost of the emergency feeding could reach about $170,000.
The last time Minnesota allowed deer feeding to help get herds through the winter was the 1996-97 season, which was the second of two consecutive winters that wiped out numbers well above normal mortality rates.