You can set out snacks for Santa, but skip putting treats outside for his reindeer.
Deer hunting season ended at sunset on Tuesday and the holiday season of gifting might include food for St. Nick and his sleigh mates. However, feeding wild deer could hurt more than help whitetail deer herds we see around Western New York.
A Utah Dept. of Wildlife Resources (DWR) notice points out the many harms that good-hearted folk can impose on wild animals they see that seem to be starving in the winter’s snow and cold.
A deer’s complex digestive system may not be ready to accept food humans set out for them, which could result in the deer’s death despite having a full stomach.
Feeding deer behind the house brings deer closer to roadways, increasing their chances of being hit by passing vehicles.
Curiously, deer that forage in backyards often begin feeding on the homeowner’s wintering plant life.
The Utah DWR points out also that congregated deer begin fighting for food items, which often results in fawns receiving less nourishment than they might have gotten while feeding in the wild.
The most relevant to area deer dynamics among the DWR cautions is that feeding deer in congregated areas “increases the chance that the deer will pass disease to each other.”
This problem occurred in central New York State in 2004 when five deer in two domestic herds were tested positively for chronic wasting disease (CWD).
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has imposed “special restriction on the importation of carcasses and parts of big game animals from areas where CED is detected.”
In October, a preserve in southeastern Pennsylvania confirmed one deer had contracted CWD.
As a result, the DEC and Pennsylvania officials now require that deer be processed in that state before being transported into New York State.
The disease has not spread from the two counties in central New York since 2004, nor has it been found in other areas of Pennsylvania this past year.
But feeding congregated deer in confined areas has experts convinced is the cause of CWD transmission, which prompted officials in New York State to impose a ban on feeding wild deer.
Feed the birds, feed Santa, feed your guests this holiday season, but let nature take its dinner course for wild whitetail deer.
One glad dad
Mark Czerniak of Attica is one glad dad, proud of his son Jonathan Czerniak, 19, who finished the season with harvests in all seasons: bow, shotgun, rifle and muzzleloader season.
Dad took one deer, a smaller 9-pointer, during regular gun season but boasted of Jonathan’s 8-pointer taken in Sheldon at 9 a.m. on the last day of the regular gun season. That buck green scored at about 138 and is now with Scott Schultz at Your Trophy Taxidermy in Alden.
Deer season wrapup
With the last of the statewide deer-hunting seasons ending at sunset on Tuesday, New York State hunters are on the way to logging another season of record firearms safety through more than two and a half months of big-game bow and gun hunting across the state again this season.
Small game and waterfowl seasons remain open at regulated intervals to Feb. 28 and varmint and special waterfowl seasons continue during weeks prior to the wild turkey opener on May 1. But the peak of hunter participation has passed with the ending of area deer hunts for Western New York areas.
While we await actual hunter-safety statistics and official deer harvest totals, the sightings and chatter seen and heard about deer herds this season reflect the responsibility of hunters and the promise of good deer numbers for seasons in the future.
Above-average warmth throughout the Oct. 1 to Dec. 18 season afforded young and mature deer access to food sources and the chance to build up greater endurance for whatever snow and lengthy cold deer may encounter during the rest of the winter and early spring.
Early-season successes on a caribou and a moose afforded the opportunity to pass on anything but a true personal trophy deer or a severely injured animal this past season. As an almost-daily observer of deer movement all season, often during long sessions in a treestand and in a comfy tower, those outings resulted in many interesting takes.
For one, I would say that a sharp-shinned hawk comes closest to helicopter-like hovering than any bird in flight. A mating pair made sure that mice, and at least one poor rabbit, would not overrun our back fields.
As for deer, first-hand sightings and a trail camera, set at assorted places around swamp-edge grounds, indicated survivors well outnumbered kills surrounding our digs. A herd of eight deer crossed openings twice early in the gun season and passed late in the season with six in their number.
But two days after the season ending, a herd of eight appeared up the hill. All were flatheads (does, fawns and possibly de-antlered bucks); none showed injuries from hunters or road vehicles.
Early deer-hunter reports suggest a so-so total count but a good number of mature deer taken later in the season. With all those big-daddy bucks impregnating herds of surviving doe this past season, hunters should have an abundance of whitetails to watch – and possibly a few more to harvest next deer season.
All thoughts that add to the enjoyment of a Merry Christmas.