Saturday, December 10, 2016

Corn is for Popping

Squirrel at a feeder - hors d'oeuvres before hitting the bird feeder - REK
Winter is the time for popcorn and hot cornbread with butter and syrup. Some might even like a sip of a good distilled corn mash. Maybe even a bowl of corn flakes. But most important, corn isn't for wildlife, although a racoon in your fresh corn field might disagree.
Let's start with deer.  In Feeding corn to deer could be death sentence, a deer biologist and a veterinarian explain the problem.  For one thing, a deer's digestive tract is not designed to handle high carbohydrate loads.  In winter especially its bacteria and enzymes are tuned to a diet of woody vegetation and a load of corn in the gut acidifies it, killing off its normal bacteria and can lead to acidosis and death.

Winter time feeding isn't even necessary.  Jerry Feaser, a deer biologist, explains:
“By late fall, deer instinctively reduce their food intake and continue to do so through most of the winter,” Feaser says. “During that time deer rely heavily on fat reserves and their ability to conserve energy.  In fact, a 1984 Pennsylvania study found that deer could survive a least a month with no food at all. During winter, deer lose 20 percent or more of their body weight by burning fat reserves. They are well adapted to survive the many stresses that winter presents."

Feeding deer is never a good idea and in New York it is actually illegal.  It is actually banned in 29 Missouri counties.  Unlike putting out food plots where the deer are spread out browsing, a feeder concentrates individuals in close proximity which can increase the spread of disease like CWD and blue tongue as described by Jim Low of MDC.  You may also do Bambi a disservice in our area when hunters gather outside your gate, waiting to take their pick as deer movement becomes predictable.

What about squirrels?  We have fed squirrels corn in the past to keep them away from our bird feeders.  Yeah, like that is going to happen!  It turns out that field corn is not only not a good food for them but it can have a toxic mold.  Unless they are eating the siding of your house and your feeding them corn has ulterior motive, best not to do it.
Bears at the feeder -

Finally, deer feeders are rarely marked plainly enough to keep near-sighted bears away.  Most corn feeders are around your house so you can see visiting wildlife.  Encouraging a bear to come in for a free meal may be thrilling the first time but once they get addicted, the thrill is gone.  "A fed bear is a dead bear," is still true and you don't want the blood on your hands.

It is time to stop feeding wildlife which has managed to get along without us for hundred of thousands of years.  Birds, OK, when it doesn't attract bears in the wild.  I like seeing wildlife up close as much as you do.  But it just isn't worth the price. 

* Hunters will want to read this from Field and Stream.
Good News- Suburban living may reduce the risks of cancer and lung disease