Are you feeding deer and pheasants this winter?

Feeding wildlife in the winter can have many other negative secondary responses.

Ashley Wolff 2023.jpg
Ashley Wolff
Contributed / NDSU Extension

While people have good intentions, supplemental feeding of wildlife typically does more harm than good. Most wildlife seasonally changes their behavior to adapt to cold temperatures and scarce food supplies. Supplemental feeding can alter that behavior and have detrimental, and sometimes fatal, effects. Feeding wildlife in the winter can have many other negative secondary responses:

  • Attract predators
  • Spread infectious diseases (Avian influenza)
  • Cause aggression and competition over food
  • Reduce fat reserves
  • Attract the wildlife too close to the roads

The last thing we want to do as a result of our good intentions is teach the wildlife to rely on humans for food. This will put them at a disadvantage for survival and can lead to many other human/wildlife conflicts. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department does not recommend/promote winter feeding. One thing that I would like to bring to your attention to is that even though the spread of the infectious Avian influenza (H5N1) has decreased within poultry recently, there is still a concern for our wildlife bird friends to be infected. You for sure should not be feeding the pheasants anywhere near your own flock.
Now, we are all still human and find it hard to completely ignore the wildlife out in the harsh North Dakota environment. One of the biggest things that you can do to still help the wildlife is to provide the right type of environment for them. You can establish food and cover plots on your property. The key to a successful food plot is its location next to heavy winter cover that is frequented by pheasants and other upland wildlife.

For more information on this topic, contact Ashley Wolff, NDSU ANR Extension agent in Stutsman County, at (701) 252-9030 or

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