In rare move, DNR to feed deer stressed by cold, snow

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Reversing course, Minnesota wildlife officials say they will feed the deer after all, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

The Department of Natural Resources now plans to release $170,000 from a special fund to feed northern Minnesota wild deer that have been struggling in severe cold and deep snow this winter.

It was just last week that DNR officials said they were not inclined to undertake the feeding effort, which disappointed some hunters.

Officials say feeding efforts often prove ineffective. They also say feeding deer can lead to the spread of diseases such as bovine tuberculosis or chronic wasting disease as the animals gather at feeders.

But the DNR is under fire from some of the state's 500,000 hunters, who say the money should be spent for the purpose for which it was collected, the News Tribune reports. The state's deer-feed fund has about $770,000, an account fed by a 50-cent surcharge that deer hunters pay as part of licensing.

Feed will be distributed in the next few weeks in areas that are below the DNR’s goal for deer population, and have high scores on a “winter severity index” — a measurement of deep snow and extreme cold that put deer at risk of starvation, the DNR says.

Some hunters were pleased.

“I was pleasantly surprised and mildly shocked,” Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA), told the Star Tribune.

Many deer are really in trouble, some hunters say.

"They're belly-deep in the snow. They're using a lot of energy to try to find food, and we've had some brutal cold temperatures also for an extended period of time," Gary Thompson, director of region 11 for the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, told WDIO in Duluth.

Hunters have said they have seen fewer deer in recent years, and have sought the DNR's help in boosting the population. Hunters harvested about 6 percent fewer deer last year than in 2012.

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