Hey Well-Meaning Wildlife Lovers: Stop Feeding Deer and This Is Why
This article might be talking about a situation with the prevalent deer population in the City of Oneonta, NY but it is a message that everyone who ever encounters deer should pay attention to because it's a universal message.
As a City of Oneonta resident, I have been dealing with growing numbers of deer traipsing through my yard over many years and there seems to be more now than ever before. City of Oneonta Mayor Mark Drnek has confirmed with me that the City of Oneonta Common Council is batting around different ideas on managing the deer population because it's clear that something needs to happen to curb the rising numbers. If you drive around in the city on any regular basis, chances are really good that you've encountered deer in the streets or worse, jumping out in front of your car which is almost the last thing you expect when you're driving around in an urban setting. Can you say "deer accidents"? Combine the auto accidents caused by deer and add in the potential for disease-carrying ticks hitching a ride on all these deer, bringing those ticks into our yards, and exposing our families to these debilitating diseases. Now you can see why a large city deer population is a problem.
Why is the deer population growing in the city? Well, you can call me crazy, but I'm certain deer in the city KNOW they are not going to get shot at by hunters but more importantly, there's plenty of food for them to enjoy in the form of a variety of yummy trees, shrubs, perennials, and tasty annual flowers within the city. Think of Oneonta, or any town or city for that matter, like a giant buffet for the deer to enjoy whenever they want.
And then we have those people who love deer and decide it's a great idea to feed the "poor, hungry" deer. These people are well-intentioned. They believe they are helping the deer survive the harsh winters but in actuality, by feeding the deer, they are causing some negative things to happen according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:
1. Deer learn to become dependent on food provided by residents (not good because it's not natural!)
2. More deer come to eat when it's easy to get and can bring with them ticks potentially carrying diseases that could potentially stick around and eventually latch onto unsuspecting people. No one wants Lyme Disease or other tick-borne diseases!
3. More deer equals more deer crossing streets and increasing the potential for auto accidents.
4. Any food provided by people for deer will not have the amount of nutrition deer need to live a healthy life. It makes them prone to malnutrition.
5. As deer are more and more exposed to people, they lose their fear of them (see the deer below in my yard who was only a couple of feet away from me as I got out of my car). This one again points back to people being exposed to diseased ticks and the deer losing this fear which helps them survive in the wild.
Do you still feel like feeding the deer in your backyard? If none of those reasons above discourage you, then you should be made aware that it's actually illegal to feed deer, bear, and moose in New York State. You can be fined. For anyone else, if you see anyone putting food out for the deer, please inform your local municipal representative because feeding deer clearly does more harm than good for these beautiful (meant-to-be) wild animals that should remain wild as nature intended.