ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEM) — You may want to think twice before feeding white-tailed deer in the winter. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, it is actually illegal to intentionally feed wild deer and moose in New York.
During the winter, deer have ways to feed and take care of themselves in the cold. The DEC said deer go through physical and behavioral changes that improve their survival odds during winter.
Deer build up fat stores in the fall that provide them with warmth and energy.
Deer develop a thick winter coat of fur that helps them absorb more sunlight and traps in more body heat, said the DEC. They have special glands that secrete oils that make their hairs water repellent. Deer often move less during winter to use less energy. Deer may also temporarily migrate to areas of dense woods to protect them from wind and hold in heat.
In hardware and garden stores, bags of cracked corn and other animal feeds might have a label saying it is illegal to intentionally feed white-tailed deer and moose in New York. The DEC said there are negative consequences to feeding deer.
The natural winter diet of a deer consists of leaves and twigs. When introduced to large amounts of grains (wheat, oats, rye) or corn, the increased carbohydrates can result in acidosis, which can be fatal. The DEC said deer may get used to your presence and become less reliant on natural foods. Large deer feeding sites can also increase the spread of disease. It can make deer become a nuisance.
The best way to help deer and other wildlife survive through winter is to make sure they have enough natural food during all seasons. You can find more information on what trees and shrubs deer eat during the winter on the DEC website.