The is no need for Human assistance for deer to survive. This is an example of “killing them with kindness”. I would even go as far to say it is unethical to put out food for deer. They are creatures of habit, and if they are being fed, they no longer have a reason to live the way they naturally adapted. Feeding deer causes an unnatural population density that is not sustainable. Cranford Township as well as Lebanon Township have even banned feeding wildlife on private property.
New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife advised against feeding deer. Especially in New Jersey, winters do not get cold enough for long enough to be detrimental to deer. Snow cover doesn’t stick around long enough to keep them from getting food. There are little to no deer losses during New Jersey winters. Naturally, during winter they work off of fat reserves that were obtained during the fall while they also reduce activity to not use too much fat in a short time frame. Remember, deer have survived without human assistance for a long time.
Feeding artificially increases deer population density creating more problems for the deer. The better nutrition they have, the more offspring are born. Thus creating a cycle that now they need more food to support the increase. Does with a normal wild diet typically reproduce starting at 1.5 years of age. However, deer that are fed from a non-wild source will reproduce at 6 months. This is a stark difference and causes a population explosion that hurts all deer in the area because of less available food, more predation, and increase in disease.
An increase of predators often results in the killing of not only more deer being but predation on other animals, for instance ground-dwelling birds. Particularly these various predators don’t even have to go after deer. Instead, they set up shop close to the feeding site to prey on other animals that will eat the food that is put out.
Only The Strongest Will Survive
With these abnormal population increases and the fact that food that is put out is typically concentrated in one area, the weakest of the herd are usually pushed out of the area. The bigger and stronger of the herd are the ones that get to eat while the smallest and weakest are at a disadvantage.
No Fear Of Humans
Another issue is there is no longer a reason for deer to fear people. This gives rise to deer-related injuries to humans. Harm comes from their hooves and antlers. During the breeding season bucks become more aggressive and does become defensive of their young. If they become a problem then have to be euthanized.
More Road Crossings
On top of all this, deer are more tempted to cross roads to get to specific houses causing more car / deer collisions. New Jersey currently has thousands of deer strikes every year and growing. It ranks 13th in the nation for car on deer-strikes. The University of New Hampshire found that deer near feeding sites are killed by vehicles in statistics that can outnumber how many would die naturally during winter.
Increased Spread Of Disease
By feeding deer, humans are increasing the risk of disease and parasites to deer, other animals, and humans themselves. Diseases like Lyme disease, bovine tuberculosis, and chronic wasting disease are on the rise. Food that is in piles cause deer to come much closer in contact more often which spreads disease. They are now coming into “nose to nose” contact and spreading saliva that increases disease and parasite risk. The food itself runs a high risk of growing toxic fungi that causes problems with both deer and all other animals that come in contact with it.
Deer do not get all the nutrition that they need from the food that humans put out. This results in more damage to landscaping than normal as the increased population that shows up in higher densities need to go out to forage in the area. More stress is put on neighboring homes, near feeding sites, than would be otherwise. Neighbors will not be happy.
Can Make Them Sick
Like most animals, deer have a very specific diet they should be eating to maintain their natural levels of micro-flora that live in their digestive tracts. These organisms are specifically for digesting cellulose in plants. As the season changes, their micro-flora change to suit the change in what they are eating naturally. Foods that humans put out have a high level of carbohydrates that deer cannot digest properly. This may cause the them to sicken from bloating, diarrhea, etc. and even potentially to death. This is called lactic acidosis.