Many non-hunters and property owners enjoy feeding deer during the fall and winter seasons when many herds move. It’s not uncommon for these deer-loving homeowners to leave buckets of various food to lure deer into the backyard for an up-close experience with them.
While there’s nothing wrong with this practice, it’s important to understand what a deer can and can’t be fed. One of the most common items property owners leave for deer is bread. Bread often goes stale before a homeowner can use it, and these loaves can be readily available to offer approaching deer.
Many of these deer enthusiasts wonder if bread is safe to feed deer. Because of their unique digestive system, can these animals safely consume this food item?
Deer and Bread
When much of the forest’s natural vegetation dies off during the fall and winter, herds of deer stay on the move to locate substantial amounts of nourishment. Some of the property owners that offer food to deer help save their lives. This is a unique trait of the ongoing relationship between humans and deer.
Humans often use bread to lure deer onto their property, as this food item is cost-effective and can be very filling for the stomach. The short answer to the question of feeding deer bread is yes; you can safely offer bread to a deer, and they can efficiently digest it.
However, because of the properties of bread and how filling it can be, it’s essential to be mindful of the amount you feed a deer. Bread can be very beneficial to deer. Deer often prepare for the winter during the summer months. They will overconsume in the summer to store fat since they understand the winter brings a lack of available food.
Bread will provide a substantial amount of fat production for deer in the summer. They can use this stored fat in the coming winter months, leading to a much healthier season that brings cold weather and extreme conditions.
How Much Bread Should You Feed a Deer?
A deer can develop lactic acidosis if they partake in eating too much bread. This condition can be life-threatening for deer, so it’s important to monitor how much bread you feed them.
The overload in carbohydrates is at the root of this issue for deer. Any large amount of fermented carbs can cause rumen overload. This rumen overload is normally fatal every time deer experience it.
Because bread isn’t a routine part of the normal diet of a deer, it’s important to incorporate this food slowly. When you feed deer manually from your backyard, this is a very easy task to accomplish.
Introducing Bread Slowly to Deer
In studies of the digestive system of deer, it’s been discovered that these animals depend on high numbers of bacteria and microorganisms to digest their food. When a change is made to their diet, such as introducing a new food, new bacteria must also be introduced to digest this new food.
The first, and most important rule of introducing new food to a deer, is doing it close to a source of natural food. You don’t want the deer getting used to these special treats regularly, or they may get dependent on them. Feeding them close to natural food sources reminds them that their natural sources for nourishment are still readily available.
It takes 10-14 days for a deer to become acclimated to a new food. Use these steps to ensure you are offering the deer the food in the most efficient amount of time.
- Use small pieces to create a trail to the main food source. However, in the beginning, there will be no main source of bread. You can include other small food items in a bucket where the bread leads.
- Once the deer become accustomed to where the bucket is, you can begin by leaving very small pieces of bread in the bucket. Monitor how many deer feeds from this bucket so you can adjust the total amount of food accordingly.
- Skip days between the times where you leave bread in the bucket.
- After a two-week period, as long as you notice the same deer continuing to feed with no issues, you can include larger of whole pieces of bread in the bucket. Use one-to-two pieces per day, per deer after the two-week period. This ensures they have been given enough time to prepare their digestive system for this change.
Is It Legal to Feed Deer In this Manner?
Sometimes feeding deer in this manner can be unlawful. This is dependent on the area you are in and the laws set forth for those areas.
Before you start any feeding regimen for a deer, you need to be aware of several factors. Some states impose laws and restrictions on feeding and luring deer. This is because of the dangers involved with supplemental feeding for these animals. If not done properly, supplemental feeding can lead to injury or death for a deer.
It’s important to understand the laws in your area. Additionally, some areas have laws that are only put in place at certain times of the year. For example, New Hampshire has made it illegal to feed deer from April 15th-September 1st. However, beginning September 1st, it is legal to bait deer with salt.
You must post a sign over the bait, and if you don’t own the land, you must obtain a baiting permit. In Michigan, it is illegal to bait or feed deer in any manner in most of the state’s counties.
What About On Your Own Property?
Many people assume that feeding deer on their own property is legal, as long as they are the landowners. However, some states even have restrictions that exist against this type of feeding.
In California, it is illegal to feed or bait deer during any time of the year. This law is in effect whether you are on public or private property.
The state cites the potential conflict that can be created between humans and wild animals as a result of feeding. California would also prefer the population in its cities not to be exposed to wildlife. This is why it’s important to understand the laws in the area you live in before feeding any wild animals.
If you are going to feed deer, it’s important to understand whether the items you are feeding them are beneficial for their health. It would be reckless and irresponsible to feed anything to a deer without doing your research first.
Besides understanding whether the food is safe for them to eat, it’s also vital that you understand the amount deer can be fed of any particular food. Do your research regarding how to introduce these foods to deer as well. The animal’s safety is one concern, but legalities are also another element you should always keep in mind.
Additionally, being aware of the laws and regulations in your area pertaining to feeding deer is important as well. In some areas, it’s illegal to feed deer, even if you’re on your property. The last thing you want is a citation just for feeding one of your favorite animals.