Feeding wild animals is something that many people do. Whether it's a nature enthusiast walking on a trail or a person keeping a bird feeder outside their house. Feeding animals in the wild is something that makes us feel connected to the environment.

But did you know there's a fine line when it comes to deer and moose?

Not only is it strongly discouraged, but it is illegal to do so in New York State. In 2019, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) updated their 11-0505 law to prohibit feeding or enticing deer with food within 300 feet of a public road. The legislation also prohibits putting a salt lick on land inhabited by deer. Later legislation fully prohibited intentionally feeding deer AND moose except in specific circumstances.

These exceptions include:

  1. If you have a DEC-issued research license or management permit.
  2. Planting or harvesting food for normal agricultural practices.
  3. Planting or harvesting to improve wildlife habitat conditions.
  4. Distributing food for livestock husbandry.
  5. Distributing food to legally captivated deer.
  6. Cutting trees or brush.

If people can feed birds, rabbits, and other animals... why is the line drawn with deer or moose? Well, there are multiple reasons for that. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos says "Feeding deer and moose can artificially increase populations and change behavior, causing harm to people, wildlife, and the environment." One major harm is the spread of tick-borne diseases. The DEC originally prohibited feeding deer back in 2002 to help decrease the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease.

Intentionally feeding deer could also potentially lead to ecological and property damage. The more deer rely on food from a source, the more other deer will begin gathering in that location.

What's the penalty for all of this? Currently, New York State Law poses a fine of up to $250 and 15 days in jail for each day of the offense. Violators with multiple offenses could lose hunting, fishing, or trapping privileges for up to five years.

Safe to say, don't feed the deer you find in Upstate New York. You may feel like you're doing the right thing, but instead, you're breaking the law. Even worse, you're potentially hurting the environment.

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