Oregon, particularly Central Oregon in the High Desert, hosts vast populations of deer. If you live in Bend, Redmond, or even parts of Hillsboro and Portland, it’s not uncommon to have deer in your backyard. They may be attracted to your garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, or even your compost pile! It’s important to remember that even though bambi and friends are absolutely adorable, they are still wild animals and they should remain that way. It is not in your best interest or the deers to be feeding them.
Many states and communities across the country have restrictions or have outlawed feeding deer. Depending on what you feed them, deer may actually be harmed by your feeding. Some foods will kill them within a few days or debilitate them enough to be easy targets for predators and automobiles. While other foods we feed them can cause deer-to-deer transmission of diseases where their digestive system can be severely altered causing eventual dehydration and at worst, death.
Feeding is a way of domesticating deer. Tame deer create a host of other problems. Because they no longer fear people, they become vulnerable to hunters. They are emboldened to eat the shrubs in your vicinity. They will bring more deer into your yard and more deer ticks. And, concentrations of deer attract coyotes and wolves—who will kill your pets along with the deer. But perhaps, one of the most important factors to consider is that the concentration of deer feeding and consequently, deer traffic in one area can wreak havoc on the local habitat.
Deer adapt very easily to people, but they don’t need to be fed by them. They survive fine on their own. Better, in fact. Usually the weather controls deer populations, but deer fed by people increase regardless of the weather. This can lead to overpopulation and disease.
Deer browsing in the back yard may be charming, but Lyme disease and road kill are not. Please don’t feed the deer; let nature do its job and enjoy their beauty from afar.
If you have questions about your area and feeding deer, visit the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife webpage here or contact your local field office at 800-720-ODFW.
For more information about feeding deer, click here.