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Just Ask Us: Should I feed wildlife to help them get through winter?
JUST ASK US

Just Ask Us: Should I feed wildlife to help them get through winter?

From the Just Ask Us: Wisconsin State Journal reporters answer your questions series
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Ice on deer

Other than birds, animals shouldn't be fed to help them survive Wisconsin winters. Instead, you can improve natural habitat. Feeding can draw deer out of winter habitat near forage and shelter, causing them to use important energy stores, and is illegal or restricted in some counties. 

Q: Should I feed wildlife to help them get through winter?

A: Wildlife in Wisconsin adapts to winter in many ways.

Some animals go dormant, while others migrate to warmer locations.

Those that stay, such as whitetail deer and some birds, have adapted to tolerate the cold, snowy winters of Wisconsin.

While harsher winters can stress animals that remain active in Wisconsin and kill weaker ones, it’s still best to avoid interacting with wildlife or placing unnatural food down, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

If you do want to help wildlife survive winter, providing access to water and native food and habitat are recommended, according to the DNR.

Planting native vegetation like trees and shrubs that grow nuts and berries can be an important winter food source. Native vegetation, evergreen trees, shrubs, dead trees, brush and wood piles can also be good shelter and habitat, the DNR said.

In addition, bird feeders and heated birdbaths can help them drink, bathe and supplement their diet.

Deer, however, shouldn’t be fed, according to the DNR. Feeding can draw deer out of winter habitat near forage and shelter, causing them to use important energy stores. It also increases the risk of digestive problems and spreading disease.

Deer feeding is also illegal or restricted in some counties.

Improved or maintained natural habitat is the best solution to helping deer survive Wisconsin winters.

— Chris Aadland

Send questions to: justaskus@madison.com; Just Ask Us, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI 53708.

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