Page, B.D. 2001. Assessing the effects of supplemental-winter feeding on the well-being of white-tailed deer in the Adirondacks. M.S. Thesis, SUNY ESF, Syracuse, 98pp.

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.