New Hampshire Neighborhood Residents Accidentally Kill Deer Herd by Feeding It

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

A dozen New Hampshire deer, including bucks, fawns and pregnant does, all died after consuming food left out for them by people residing in a South Hampton neighborhood.

Christopher Husgen, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife federal officer, was walking his dog in the woods near his house when he came upon deer after deer lying dead on the side of the trail.

“I thought if there are seven deer in the mile loop that I take out back, how many more are there and what killed them?," Husgen said.

He called friend and neighbor, fish and game conservation officer Graham Courtney, who discovered another dead deer on his way to meet Husgen through the woods. The two men found 12 in all.

When examining the contents of the deer's stomachs, the men found corn, hay and deer pellets, which were put out by well-meaning neighbors.

The problem is that deer digestive systems need time to adjust to change. This time of the year in New Hampshire, deer are generally living off the fat they stored up during the fall and browsing for buds and old acorns. A sudden change in the food they are eating can cause bad bacteria to grow, which produces bad toxins, which poisons the deer’s body.

Courtney went from house to house to tell his neighbors about the dead deer and to encourage them to stop feeding the deer. The disheartened neighbors who'd put food out, cleaned it up.

“It was traumatizing for them as it was for all of us that were out there,” Courtney said. “We all love wildlife. So it was a sad sight.”

He says he hopes that the neighborhood residents remember that wild animals need to stay wild.  

Do you think it is a bad idea to feed wild animals?