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Deer at the Bird Feeder

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: I live in central Florida and have deer constantly showing up at my bird feeder to eat, most noticeably at night in the month of June. Is bird seed safe for them to eat? Also, I've noticed none of the five currently visiting my feeder have antlers. Could that be because they're all female, or that they are in the shedding season? If so, on the shedding season, could you tell me when that is? - Ryan O.

Deer at the Bird FeederANSWER: In general, I see no harm in deer eating your bird seed. However, there are a few issues to consider.

First, the bird seed needs to be fresh. Seed stored at length, or that has been lying on the ground for an extended period, could become moldy and possibly lead to disease. If the deer are there every night, like you say, it probably doesn't stay around long enough to get old and moldy. 

Another issue is how close you are to a road. If they must cross a road to get to your feeder, you are increasing the risk of a collision that could result in serious injury or death to a deer or driver.

Also consider that feeders concentrate deer in one very small area, which also increases the possibility for predation and the spread of disease.

As for antlers, it's hard to say for sure without photos. It's very likely the five deer you've been seeing are all females, or possibly does with yearling offspring, in which case you wouldn't likely see antlers.

One or more could be bucks, but you'd likely see evidence of antler growth; the leathery "buttons" on their foreheads.

I'm afraid I can't tell you when "shedding season" is without more information about your exact location.

Several things, including daylight and age, determine the period in which bucks shed antlers, and in Florida, that can be quite diverse.

They shed after the rut, and Florida wildlife biologist Tony Young considers his state's white-tailed deer rut to be '... probably the most unique of all the 50 states' because of its diverse geographic range.

Does in the extreme southern portion of the peninsula come into heat as early as late July, while in the northwestern part (and some areas of western-central Florida) of the state, the mean rut occurs as late as early- to mid-February. 

Tony says, "For the rest of the state, as you move further north (and then west once you get past the peninsula), the rut comes in later and later, beginning in late July at the southern tip and continuing all the way until mid-February in the Northwest part of Florida."

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