Douglass, Kevin A.  2003. The effects of supplemental feeding on white-tailed deer behavior in relation to energetics and reproductive biology. M.S. Thesis, SUNY-ESF, 80 pp.


Abstract:
The well being of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in northern regions depends primarily upon their winter nutritional status.  Supplemental feeding programs are popular among various public and private groups, yet a complete understanding of long-term impacts on deer is lacking.  This study evaluated the effects of winter supplemental feeding on a white-tailed deer herd in the north-central Adirondacks.  During the winter of 2001-2002, over 80 hours of behavior sampling was performed in order to determine time spent in both feeding and non-feeding activities.  Data indicates that both male and female adults, yearlings, and fawns spend approximately 80% of their time feeding on hay and corn during morning hours.  However, calculated energy benefits indicate that adult males do not meet daily energetic requirements.  In addition, fawns and yearlings are only marginally within range of meeting daily energy requirements. Because energy expenditures used in this study are conservative, fawns and yearlings likely fall short of meeting energetic needs.  Additionally, long-term supplemental feeding may also affect migration patterns, social structure, and reproductive behavior. Daily protein requirements were exceeded in all age and sex classes.  Fawn-only designed feeders may alleviate some stress for smaller deer, ensuring these deer access to supplements.