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528 tons of deer feed distributed, program ends Saturday

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Volunteers are concluding a sometimes-controversial deer-feeding program Saturday, after distributing about 528 tons of pellet feed to help the northern Minnesota deer population get through a brutal winter.

The state's Department of Natural Resources collects money for the program through a 50-cent surcharge that deer hunters pay as part of licensing, and the account had roughly $770,000 in it before about $200,000 was spent in the last six weeks.

The program has been controversial because state officials question whether the feeding does much good – and it's not clear whether this most recent feeding was effective. More data is expected this summer.

The DNR had said it would not release the money this year, but prodded by hunters, the agency reversed course in February and agreed to go ahead with the program.

Just under 1,000 volunteers with the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association have fed about 15,000 deer per week in the last six weeks, at nearly 1,000 sites, the hunters association reports.

Wildlife managers have received a number of reports about dead and struggling deer in recent weeks, the Associated Press reports.

DNR officials say Minnesota is home to about 1 million white-tailed deer.

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