DNR Reluctantly Agrees To Feed Deer In Northeast Minnesota

It won’t be happening in northwest Minnesota, but the Department of Natural Resources has confirmed plans to feed wild deer across northeast Minnesota, a part of the state that has been hit especially hard by winter.

According to John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune, a Forum Communications Co. newspaper, the DNR will be releasing $170,000 from a special fund to feed deer. A 50-cent surcharge on all state deer hunting licenses funds the feeding account.

Myers reported the emergency feed will be distributed in areas where the winter severity index — a measure of days with temperatures 0 degrees F or colder and snow 15 inches or deeper — is 100 or more. Several areas of the Arrowhead region in northeast Minnesota already are above 120 on the scale, with several weeks of winter still to come, Myers reported.

The area of concern includes much of St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Koochiching, Itasca, Aitkin and Carlton counties — roughly north and east of a line from Cloquet to Cass Lake and up to International Falls, Minn. — but not the North Shore, where deer populations are at or above the DNR’s goals.

DNR officials still oppose feeding deer, citing limited benefits and the increased risk of disease transmission by articially concentrating deer in small areas, but are being pressured by some of the state’s 500,000 deer hunters to spend money from the emergency feeding fund, which currently holds about $770,000, DNR Wildlife Chief Paul Telander told  Myers.

“We’re still working on the details, but we expect the lion’s share of work to be done by the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association chapters,” Telander said, adding it likely will be two to three weeks before any of the commercial feed makes it into the woods.

Mark Johnson, executive director of the 16,000-member Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, told Myers his members have been lobbying the DNR to release the deer feeding money for the past couple of weeks. He said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwher conceded Wednesday morning.

“I don’t disagree with any of the reasons DNR doesn’t like emergency deer feeding,” he said. “But, in the same breath, that money was collected and set aside for this purpose, and a lot of my members in northern Minnesota think it’s time to use it.”

Feeding is expected to continue through March and likely into April.