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Minnesota deer feeding effort all but over

Forum News Service

DULUTH -- With snow depth diminishing across much of northeastern Minnesota, the state’s first supplementary deer-feeding program in more than 15 years is all but over.

Nearly 1,000 volunteers have distributed 528 tons of deer feed across the region to help beleaguered whitetails make it through the winter, said Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. The effort began March 6, and Johnson estimates that volunteers reached 16,000 deer.

Saturday marked the final day of feeding at more than 1,000 sites, Johnson said.

But feeding will continue through this week or longer on the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reservation, said Mike Schrage, the band’s wildlife biologist. That’s because snow depth remains at more than 20 inches on the reservation.

The deer hunters’ association coordinated the feeding effort. A total of $260,000 was allocated, of which MDHA has spent about $200,000, Johnson said. The money, generated by a 50-cent surcharge on deer hunting licenses, was transferred from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to the hunters’ association in a grant.

The DNR opposes supplementary deer feeding, saying it can cause disease transmission from close contact among deer, and because it doesn’t reach enough deer to make a population-wide difference.