New York state's DEC should amend its current law to allow landowners and hunters to amend their soil with minerals and trace elements that are not only beneficial to wildlife, but in some regions necessary for their optimal growth and even survival.
New York state is currently doing a reevaluation of its deer laws, and it would be such a positive enhancement to the state deer herd to legalize whitetail soil amendments.
In some areas of the state, the soil has become so leached out from erosion and farming practices that animals, especially whitetail deer, have a difficult time sustaining themselves in an optimal state.
Study after study has shown that the higher terrain, especially, can't sustain hoofed animals of any species without mineral amendments.
Whitetails, in some areas, are especially challenged due to the poor quality of the soils. In contrast, in these same areas, farmers and livestock owners, without exception, have to continually supplement their stock with minerals for optimal individual and herd health.
But deer are wild right? And they should be able to get along without man's intrusion, right?
But in fact, whitetail deer raised on deer farms have been shown to evidence little difference in this regard with other livestock. In fact, the case can be made that wild deer need the minerals such as selenium, phosphorus, and calcium, etc. even more than other hoofed critters.
The reason being that for a whitetail to grow a large set of antlers, it draws the highest percentage of minerals out of its own bones. In fact, researchers have described this process of antler growth as a form of osteoporosis.
That's right; whitetail bucks draw the minerals and trace elements out of their bones (especially from their ribs and their sternums) each year to produce their antlers.
Researchers have shown that the deer's ribs and sternum actually shrink in size. Then, through the fall and winter the whitetails try to replace the chemistry that had so recently resided in their bones and tissues, and then sits so majestically on their heads, above their ears.
This form of osteoporosis, or removal of minerals from the skeletal system, is an annual occurrence for whitetails. Once the demand ceases, the minerals that were removed from the skeletal structure are replaced by nutrients obtained through the deer’s foraging.
And in some areas, the soil is so depleted; whitetails struggle to make up the deficit.
And of course, it is not just bucks and their antlers. The same phenomenon goes for does too, as they try to build a pair of fawns each year. The rapid growth (200 day gestation period) is a great strain on the female whitetails, as the growing embryos draw the minerals and trace elements from the doe's bones.
Providing amendments to the soil in an available state could do wonders for the whitetails, allowing them to be larger, stronger, more full of energy, and produce larger and more healthy fawns, better able to fight off disease.
But it is currently illegal to put out minerals for wildlife in New York state even though other surrounding states allow the practice, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and others.
Currently, New York state has a great deer program, certainly better than Pa.!
Yet that perceived danger of disease transmission from mineral amendments does not meet a threshold in these other states. And the case could be made that the lack of amendments in the soil is actually debilitating to our whitetails to a greater degree than any disease has ever done.
Of course the proposed law could be crafted as to make illegal the use of soil amendments for bait or hunting over and as some states do, a minimum distance from the mineral placement area is required and/or time requirement, such as no supplements added to the soil for the purpose of enhancing wildlife closer than one month to the hunting season.
New York game biologists have maintained that the reason for keeping the current ban on soil amendments for whitetails is to prevent CWD and other deer diseases such as Blue Tongue. But the incidence of CWD was a number of years ago in New York and determined to be from a captive deer that escaped its enclosure. And recent data suggests that the jury is still out understanding the nature of prion migration, transmission and contagion.
Other ruminant species, including wild ruminants like deer and elk along with domestic livestock like cattle, goats, and sheep have been housed in wildlife facilities in direct or indirect contact with CWD-affected deer and elk with absolutely no evidence of disease transmission.
Also, whitetails continually lick their overhanging branches, lick each other and feed next to each other in food plots, under apple trees, and in the same clover fields. Adding a mineral to the soil for the specific enhancement of the whitetail's health would add a tiny fraction of this perceived risk, far outweighed by the benefit.
I hope New York state would revisit the basis for its ban on soil amendments to feed deer and give landowners and those of us concerned with the health of the whitetail the right to add minerals to the soil for the animals' benefit.
Oak?Duke writes a weekly column appearing Sunday on the Outdoors page.