Date of this Version
Environmental Management (2013) 51:1187–1193 DOI 10.1007/s00267-013-0046-4
Given the popularity of feeding white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Texas and the increasing amount of corn that is distributed, more information is needed on the impacts of this activity on non-target wildlife. Our objectives were to report visitation, intra- and interspecific contact, and contact rates of wildlife at artificial feeding sites in Texas. Our study was conducted at three sites in Kleberg and Nueces counties, Texas. We trapped animals from February to April and August to September, 2009 and marked animals with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags. At each site and season, we placed one feeder system containing a PIT tag reader within 600 m of trap locations. Readers detected PIT tags from a distance of 25 cm. We determined a contact event to occur when two different PIT tags were detected by feeder systems within 5 s. We recorded 62,719 passes by raccoons (Procyon lotor), 103,512 passes by collared peccaries (Pecari tajacu), 2,923 passes by feral swine (Sus scrofa), 1,336 passes by fox squirrels (Sciurus niger), and no passes by opossums (Didelphis virginiana) at feeder systems. For site–season combinations in which contact events occurred, we found intraspecific contact rates (contacts per day) for raccoons, collared peccaries, and feral swine to be 0.81–124.77, 0.69–38.08, and 0.0–0.66, respectively. Throughout our study we distributed *2,625 kg of whole kernel corn, which resulted in 6,351 contact events between marked wildlife (2.4 contacts per kg of corn). If 136 million kg of corn is distributed in Texas annually, we would expect [5.2 billion unnatural contact events between wildlife would result from this activity each year in Texas. Consequently, we do not believe that it is wise for natural resource managers to maintain artificial feeding sites for white-tailed deer or other wildlife due to pathogen transmission risks.