ROXBURY — Michael Worthley stood on his backyard deck late Thursday afternoon, scanning the treeline behind an open expanse of snow.

He was looking for the herd of deer that he feeds with Producer’s Pride All-Stock Sweet Animal Feed.

“It’s like a treat to them,” he said. “But they’re still eating buds on trees and woody browse and acorns if they can find them, and beechnuts.”

Each day, usually 15 deer — sometimes it’s 26 right before a snowstorm — come to his yard. All look healthy and several does are pregnant, some heavy with twins, Worthley surmises. Crows and wild turkeys also eat the feed.

He has fed deer through winters after hunting season ends for 10 years at his property, attracting more than 40 deer the first year. He gets a pellet feed that is used for mixed herds of animals, including sheep, from Tractor Supply in Rumford.

When people overfeed deer unhealthy food to the point that it kills them, as happened last week in South Hampton, N.H., Worthley gets upset. He bristles when people post comments on Facebook saying those who feed deer are killing them with kindness.


“I’ve never found any dead deer from my feeding them,” he said. “I did find some dead deer that were killed by coyotes.”

Every year, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issues news releases asking people not to feed deer through the winter. On Tuesday, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department reiterated that message, strongly discouraging the practice.

Twelve deer were discovered dead in South Hampton, “most likely the victims of well-intentioned, but tragically fatal, supplemental feeding by local residents,” according to a news release.

New Hampshire biologists conducted field necropsies on eight of the animals, which indicated that they had died from complications caused by winter feeding, according to the release.

Worthley said he believes people in South Hampton were feeding the deer to the point of overfeeding them, because too many people were doing it.

“My opinion is that if everyone in the neighborhood was feeding them, that’s all they would eat,” he said. “Not too many people are feeding them up here (in Roxbury).”


He said if the deer he feeds weren’t mainly eating woody browse, they would be ravenously eating the supplemental feed he puts out in little piles. “But they’re not. Their ribs aren’t showing. These are healthy deer. A couple of the bucks look like they’re over 200 pounds right now and they’re long. There are also five or six pregnant does.”

Worthley is president of the Roxbury All-Terrain Vehicle Club and a trail groomer for the Roxbury Slippery Sliders Snowmobile Club. He keeps his small deer yard groomed for the deer so they can walk atop the snow to the feed, which has just a touch of molasses for maximum palatability, according to marketing on the bag.

He has posted large signs along Route 120, alerting drivers to slow down for deer crossing the road to reach his feed.

As heavy rain fell, Worthley picked up the 2-foot-tall metal bucket that he uses to feed the deer and banged his hand on the bottom for a few sharp raps.

“It’s like calling in pigs,” he said.

About 30 minutes later, a young deer cautiously wandered up from the woods into the clearing. It nervously approached the feed, then stopped after a few minutes. Its white tail suddenly flashed up and off it bounded into the woods. What spooked it was six deer following a buck single file up over the bank from the woods and into the yard.


They stood there in a group — last year’s fawns, does and bucks — until Worthley poured a little feed into the pot and swirled it around. Then the deer approached the piles and began feeding, eating a little at a time.

Les Flanders of Wilsons Mills in Lincoln Plantation also feeds deer through the winter, albeit much more than Worthley.

“We feed around 300-350 deer each winter,” Flanders said Wednesday on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Facebook site under the shared New Hampshire news release about the dead deer.

“We’ve been feeding deer here in Wilsons Mills for over 60 years. We feed a special deer feed grain mix and they do very well on it,” Flanders said. “Even a state biologist was surprised at how well they were doing. Logging practices up here have decimated their winter habitat and without supplemental feeding, the deer herd was decreasing.”

Worthley said a lot of logging is underway this winter in Roxbury.

“Once you start feeding them in the winter, you can’t stop,” Worthley said. “Usually, I try to slow down feeding them by April 1. When I see them grazing on grass in my neighbor’s yard, I stop feeding them.”

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