Nature Matters: Is deer feeding making a difference?

By KBJR News 1

March 18, 2014 Updated Mar 18, 2014 at 1:01 PM CDT

Esko, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Minnesota's emergency deer feeding continues as this severe winter continues to get even more severe with no end in sight. How many deer are getting this hand out and is it making a difference?

Widdes Feed Store in Esko has become a buzzing hive of activity since they became a distribution hub for Minnesota's emergency deer feeding program.

"Last Saturday, I believe they doled out 15 tons of feed in four hours,” Widdes Farm And Feed, Josh Widdes, said.

Minnesota's Winter Severity Index has pushed into the severe category in parts of Itasca, St Louis, Carlton, Lake and Cook Counties.

Josh Widdes says his clients are coming back with physical evidence of that severity after putting out piles of state issued feed.

There are people walking through the woods going to their piles and finding dead deer and not killed by predators; they're just tipping over dead; starved to death.

"The government issued feed is only for public land but a lot of private citizens want to help the deer as well so places like Denny's Hardware in Duluth are selling a lot feed,” Denny's Ace Hardware, Yvonne Pilcher, said.

"We get a lot of customers for the deer treat and we also have whole corn which a lot of people will buy to put out also," Widdes said.

But, the Minnesota DNR wants feeders to remember that whole corn is potentially fatal to deer. Commercial feeds are more nutritionally balanced and digestible.

"The product we sell here is a mixture of corn, oats, soy, molasses and mixed grains and sunflower seeds so it is very similar to the formula the state has put out,” Widdes said.

The leader of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association in Grand Rapids tells us his group has a thousand volunteers putting out feed right now.

It's estimated that 12 to 16–thousand deer are being fed. Some will argue that's a drop in the bucket compared to the state deer herd size of a million.

Yvonne Pilcher of Denny's Hardware feeds deer herself and isn't worried a little food now will have the herd gobbling her garden come spring.

"We always have other products here to use come spring when you want to keep deer from coming in your yard and feeding but this winter, the deer feeding is a good way to go,” Pilcher said.

Right now, it is planned to keep Minnesota's emergency deer feeding program going for another four weeks.

Dave Anderson