Abstract: For white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
in the northern portion of their range, winter is a critical time particularly
with respect to fawn recruitment. In an attempt to compensate for
winter hardships, supplemental-winter feeding programs are often established.
This study evaluated the effects of winter feeding among 3 free-ranging
white-tailed deer populations relative to 1 un-fed site. Over the
winters of 1998-99 and 1999-2000, 72 fawns were captured and assessed morphologically
at sites with supplemental feeding. Radio-telemetry was used to track
winter survival and seasonal movement patterns. Blood and fecal samples
from captured fawn and fecal pellets deposited from unknown individuals
in the 4 populations were collected and used to evaluate nutritional well-being.
Results suggest that benefits from feeding depend on frequency, quantity,
and distribution of feed as well as winter conditions. Additionally,
long-term feeding programs can create non-migratory populations.
While blood, fecal, and physical measurements provided the most detailed
profile of deer well-being, average fecal pellet mass and fiber content
can be used as indicators of diet digestibility.