How can this be true?
Due to severe winter weather conditions deer in Wisconsin are or becoming very stressed, may be to the point of starving. If I put out some corn, I mean, they eat corn I’ve found it in their stomachs while field dressing them. Plus we all see deer in cornfields eating away. So what’s with this warning?
A version of this question is being asked all across Wisconsin especially in the northern part of the state. We all love and treasure our deer and only want to do what is best for them. Feeding during extreme conditions sure seems like it will help them out when they need it the most. If the deer had the same digestive processes they did last fall we could help them with supplemental feeding.
However, what many folks don’t know and what some hunters may have forgotten is a deer ‘s digestive enzymes change with the seasons. If you think about this it makes sense. In order to survive most all the metabolic rates of all wildlife change. In the case of whitetail deer they become less active in order conserve energy. In addition their digestive enzymes change so they can digest woody browse. This is the stuff they would not have considered eating last fall when so many other more desirable choices were available.
Acidosis- grain overload and Enteroxemia- overeating disease. Deer find grain or hay in a plentiful pile they eat. But because they can’t digest it due to the change in their enzymes they eat some more in an effort to satisfy the hunger and suddenly die with full stomachs.
Michigan DNR website does a good job explaining:
Corn toxicity is a general term related to two diseases which can affect white-tailed deer throughout Michigan and elk in the northeastern portion of the state. Both diseases occur acutely and result in the rapid death of animals in good physical condition.
A change from a natural diet of high fiber woody browse to low fiber high carbohydrate foods initiates the disease. The severity of the illness depends on the type of grain (ground or whole), previous exposure of the animal to the grain, the amount of grain consumed, the animal’s nutritional state and physical condition, and the microflora present. Ingestion of toxic amounts of corn are followed within 2 to 6 hours by a change in the microbial population in the rumen. The number of gram-positive bacteria (Streptococcus sp.) increase markedly (replacing the normally abundant gram-negative bacteria), thereby producing large quantities of lactic acid. This results in the rumen pH falling to or below 5, destroying protozoa, cellulolytic organisms, and lactate utilizing organisms, and reducing rumen mobility. Chemical rumenitis and absorption result in lactic acidosis. The lactic acid and lactate build-up cause excessive quantities of fluid to move into the rumen, causing dehydration.
In deer and elk there is no effective treatment for either of these diseases because of the short duration of the illness and that normally animals are found dead, not sick.
Click on the link above these take away quotes it’s worth reading the information is its entirety. You’ll also find some images of diseased animal intestines.
How to Help the Winter Deer
- First understand there is very little that can be done once a severe winter sets in. Usually by the time humans notice how bad it is the wildlife is already damaged.
- The best feed on a small scale local level is to go cut down some trees to provide the deer some woody browse. The buds are swelling with moisture and nutrients out of the deer’s reach, a chainsaw brings these into easy deer reach. (if you don’t own the land make sure the landowner grants permission for cutting)
- The best trees to cut down are the more undesirable like box elder, aspen, birch, elm, ironwood, dogwoods, silver maple, etc..
- Do not supplemental feed grains or hay.
Long Term Help
- If you plant food plots that contain primarily grasses and leafy plants. Develop a plan that allows for deer desirable woody browse.
- Visit your food plots now to witness the available food first hand. So many are shocked to find heavy snow has totally covered all their work and provides no wildlife food at all.
- Carrying capacity is defined as the number of any given wildlife that can survive during the worst of conditions.
- Always plan food plots and other habitat projects for the worst of conditions.
What sorts of things should be planted in a food plot and how can one determine capacity?
charlie elk says
Carrying capacity is likely a few more animals than those left surviving after this winter. Due social attitudes northern game departments no longer manage wildlife to the land’s carrying capacity.
An entire property should be viewed as a “food plot”. Complete with linear openings to provide green browse. For the most part in the north green browse is buried under snow rendering it worthless for increasing the land’s capacity. Deer need woody browse they can reach which stays above the snow to carry them through a severe winter. Examples of these in WC WI are red oaks this species holds their leaves until about February when they start casting them on top of the snow. Deer eat these leaves. Box elders are another big mast provider as their seeds are mast starting mid February, also dogwood and sumac.
It would be advisable for all hunters to visit their hunting areas now and observe what it growing that provided food during the winter. Then encourage more growth of that through editing rather than herbicides.
If you see young saplings where deer gnawed the bark; this indicates the deer were very desperate for food prior to a likely death. The tops of those saplings would have been a better food source. Saplings which are not intended as a timber crop can be kept at deer level by fall pruning or winter topping.