Deer displaced by the Mississippi River flooding should return to their normal home ranges within weeks of the flood waters receding, but what food will they find available?

The answer depends on the habitat conditions on each property, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks said in a news release providing supplemental feeding recommendations.

Portions of woody plants, called browse, should not be negatively impacted, the agency said. However, biologists said lack of oxygen and sunlight will have damaged cool-season weeds, native grasses and planted food plots.

The full nutritional impact on returning deer will depend on relative amounts of each forage type available on their home ranges, the MDWFP said.

Biologists should determine the need for artificial nutritional supplementation (feeding), the MDWFP said. But, since it is virtually impossible for agency representatives to visit all properties, biologists have made these suggestions:

• Use a complete pelletized ration. This is a feed mixture in the form of a pellet that is nutritionally adequate for deer and contains crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, vitamins and minerals, and does not contain any animal byproducts.

Shelled corn, rice bran, soybeans and cottonseed hulls alone do not meet the nutritional requirements of deer.

Mixing corn or soybeans with protein pellets will improve acceptance by deer and will increase energy intake.

• Feed must be provided from an above-ground covered feeder or a stationary spin-cast feeder. It is illegal to pour, pile, or place feed directly on the ground. 

• Hay is not recommended because deer have a complex digestive system and cannot digest hay due to the lack of needed bacteria in their stomachs. Consumption of hay can actually burn more energy than gained, so deer will not benefit from eating only hay.