MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Extreme cold and deep snow in northern Minnesota this winter have led conservation officials to reverse course and approve a $170,000 plan for emergency deer feeding.
It will be the first time the Department of Natural Resources has fed deer since a harsh winter 17 years ago. The DNR generally opposes feeding deer because of the cost and questionable effectiveness. Feeding can cause them to congregate and possibly spread diseases, and it increases the likelihood they deer will become prey to wolves.
But the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association had been prodding the DNR in recent weeks to change its stand because of the harsh winter in the north. Mark Johnson, the group's executive director, said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr told him of the decision Wednesday morning.
"I was pleasantly surprised and mildly shocked," Johnson told the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1g0Wk7o ).
Feeding was approved for a region from Cloquet, west to Cass Lake, north to International Falls, east to Ely and back to Cloquet, but not along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The money will come from a 50-cent license surcharge that hunters have paid for about 15 years. The money goes into a fund that can be used for either feeding or controlling deer diseases.
DNR wildlife section chief Paul Telander said two weeks or more might be needed to purchase a pellet feed mix that deer can digest easily and transport it to distribution points in the north.
"We want to get it going as soon as possible," he said.
Volunteer groups, including MDHA chapters, are expected to deliver the feed by snowmobile to known deer wintering areas.
But when winter ends, the DNR and deer hunters need to discuss whether deer feeding is practical and effective, Telander said.
"We understand that dialogue needs to happen," Johnson said.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com