(PRESS RELEASE/Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)
Over the last two weeks, WDFW biologists received three separate reports of dead deer with no external signs of trauma. Biologists responded and conducted necropsies on these deer, two mule deer and one white-tailed deer.
After internal examination, it was determined that all three deer died of rumen acidosis. Rumen acidosis occurs when wild or domestic ruminants (deer, elk, moose, cattle, sheep, etc.) ingest large quantities of highly fermentable carbohydrates, usually grain, corn, and fruit. In all three of these cases, the highly fermentable carbohydrate was corn. While it can feel like you are helping deer and other wildlife by feeding them in the winter, it actually harms them because they cannot properly digest these foods. And while all three deer had full bellies, they were unable to acquire the necessary nutrition to sustain life. If you want to help wildlife survive the winter the best thing you can do for deer and other wildlife, is avoid disturbing them.
This includes staying on established roads and trails and keeping your dog restrained while recreating. This allows deer and other wildlife to conserve their energy during the nutritionally limited winter months, giving them a better chance at surviving to spring.