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Home arrow Opinion arrow Editorials arrow Don't feed the deer

Don't feed the deer

It's easy to feel sorry for the deer you see slogging through Baker County's snowbound yards, fields and forests when the temperature plunges far below freezing.

It's also easy to kill those deer with your kindness.

The truth is that in almost every situation, deer are more apt to survive arctic weather if they find food on their own rather than take handouts from concerned humans.

A state wildlife biologist said recently that six dead deer found near Klamath Falls probably died because they ate food that people set out for them.

The biologist said deer that rapidly switch from their natural diet to foods that people give them can die, even with their stomachs full, because their digestive systems can't adjust to the change, and so the animals can't process the food they've eaten.

Things such as carrots, apples, alfalfa and grain, though ostensibly nutritious, can make deer sick rather than spare them from starvation.

Such situations are sad not only because the outcome is precisely the opposite of what the kind-hearted person intended.

They're also tragic because they're not necessary.

Except during abnormally harsh winters — and the current one does not yet qualify as such — most deer will endure without any assistance from people.

The deer might not prosper, and by spring their ribs might press in conspicuous rows against their gray flanks, but they'll most likely survive.

Also, feeding deer can cause problems even if it doesn't kill the animals.

Deer, once they've sampled free food, will return for seconds, and thirds. But deer don't fare well when they hang around homes, where they sometimes tussle with pets or, more rarely, with people.

The deer aren't always alone, either. Coyotes and cougars, which like to eat deer but won't turn down a cat or a dog, tend to go where the deer go.

A couple of cute fawns frolicking in your backyard is a considerably different matter than a 150-pound cougar slinking around.

The bottom line here is that, no matter how hard the tug is on your heart when you watch deer go by on a winter's day, the animals, and you, will almost certainly be happier if you let them fend for themselves.

 
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