Deer show up for a free lunch at this feeding station. Credit: Courtesy of Kenneth Coffey

Here in Maine, winter weather has arrived in force, with snowstorms every few days and some frigid temperatures.

And sometimes, kind landowners decide to feed their neighborhood deer in order to give them a “hoof up” during the wintertime.

Before I hop up on my soapbox again, I’ll share this trail camera photo, sent in by Kenneth Coffey, who lives in Gray Court, South Carolina. Coffey’s pic shows a couple of nice bucks that have showed up for a free meal at a feeding station. Coffey feeds the deer every night, and has three bucks and about 14 does that regularly show up at the buffet.

Simply put, the photo is impressive. And I’m not going to even begin to tell a person in South Carolina why they might want to avoid feeding deer in their own backyard. I’m not sure how things are done there, and I’ve seen plenty of photos that indicate deer feeding is a pretty common practice in parts of the southern U.S.

I will, however, share a little advice for my fellow Mainers, from our own Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

That agency, you may not know, would rather you not feed the deer, for a number of reasons.

Among those, according to the DIF&W:

  • Feeding concentrates deer in smaller areas, reducing size and effectiveness of trail networks.
  • Concentrating deer in smaller areas can create a feeding ground for predators.
  • Concentrating deer in smaller areas may increase their vulnerability to diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease.
  • Concentrating deer in smaller areas can literally kill all vegetation within their reach over one to several hundred acres, impacting regeneration and reducing the forest’s ability to shelter deer in the future.
  • Feeding may cause long-term impacts on deer behavior as they lose their wariness toward people.
  • Feeding sites can significantly increase deer/vehicle collisions.
  • Deer may actually starve when fed supplemental foods during winter if they have a full belly of indigestible foods; many deer have starved to death with stomachs packed full of hay.
  • Deer compete aggressively for scarce, high-quality foods and only the strongest, most dominant deer (who would have survived the winter anyway) gain access to food, while deer most vulnerable to starvation in winter (usually fawns) are denied access to supplemental feed by more aggressive deer.
  • Winter feeding is expensive; one deer requires two to five pounds of feed per day depending on the quality of feed.

Just a few things I hope you’ll consider.

Do you have a trail camera photo or video to share? Send it to and tell us “I consent to the BDN using my photo.” In order to prevent neighbors from stopping by to try to tag particularly large bucks, moose or bears, some identities and towns of origin may be omitted.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...