Planting natural vegetation, improving habitat best way to feed deer in winter

Landowners may want to consider planting tree and shrub species this spring with an eye to providing food for deer next winter. In this case, a white cedar was fenced in such a way that deer could browse some of the tree without destroying it. (Photo by Jerry Davis)

In some parts of the state, winter damage to vegetation from white-tailed deer has been severe, where deer have been eating beyond the usual white cedar (arborvitae) and eastern white pine.

That the first hit, but the cedars were certainly the first and worst.

Other species, based on ornamental plantings, included crabapple (although generally just the old fruits), weeping beech shrub, and various cypress.

Browsing bur oaks and a variety of other hardwoods continued as winter continued and particularly after a foot or more snow covered the ground.

Reminders have continued to go out all winter from the DNR that asked people not to feed deer, and this year, the DNR suggested planting some of these specialty species, when space is available this spring, with the assumption that they will be eaten by deer even at an early stage. Plant these “diversion species” some distance from landscape plantings.

Was there something besides the deep snow this winter that brought deer into more urban areas or rural homes well landscaped with evergreens? Maybe nearby crop fields of picked soybeans, corn and alfalfa when snow was shallow encouraged deer to come back for easier feeding.

Don’t feed, but plant, is a reasonable model and something worth trying when looking ahead to spring.

Categories: Whitetail Deer, Wisconsin – Jerry Davis

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