It’s easy to demonize hunters as unsympathetic, cruel, and violent towards animals. In the snowy woods of northern Minnesota, however, hunters are not taking the lives of the local deer population this winter—they’re saving them.

As Pioneer Press reports, more than 130 Minnesotans have volunteered to lay out feed for the wild whitetail deer population, whose numbers have diminished drastically due to this year’s severe winter. The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association has spearheaded the effort, and has seen an outpouring of support.

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“We had a guy walk into our office yesterday and said, ‘I’ve got a warehouse you can use,’” said Mark Johnson, executive director of the MDHA. “I need to figure out if he has a forklift. … One member said, ‘I’ve got my airplane ready. We can do a flyover whenever you want.’”

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources initially opposed the operation, arguing that causing deer to congregate may encourage the spread of bovine tuberculosis, chronic wasting diseases, and other fatal illness. After pressure from deer hunters, however, the DNR has provided $170,000 to purchase deer feed. This is the first incident that the state has sponsored an emergency deer feed since 1997, which was much larger in scope and cost over $1 million.

After conducting extensive research to select the best possible feed for the deer—which must meet strict DNR guidelines for protein, fat, fiber, and vitamin levels—the MDHA has moved on to finalizing feeding sites. The organization has had no trouble finding volunteers amongst Minnesota’s 500,000 deer hunters. Volunteers have assisted the effort in a variety of ways, from scouting and mapping possible feed locations to strapping on snowshoes and making zigzag trails in the brush for the deer to follow. The team is now looking forward to distributing the feed later this week.

“We know we can’t get to all the deer, but we’ll make every effort to get to as many as we can!” says one cheery update from the deer feeding task force.

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While we may not all agree with the practice of animal hunting, we certainly support the efforts made by the Deer Hunters Association’s incredible volunteer team. And we’re sure the deer appreciate it too—even if they don’t stick around for hunting season!

Image source: johnnnnnn / Flickr

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