Leon Valley, TX

New City Ordinance Will Stop Small Texas Town Residents from Feeding Deer 'Doughnuts and Tortillas' on City Property

Zack Love

Some residents in Leon Valley, Texas have made it a habit of feeding the deer, which in itself makes wild animals more likely to think that humans are a food source. To make it worse, the "worst offenders" have been going to a local bakery and buying "doughnuts and tortillas" specifically for feeding the deer, according to the public works director. A new city ordinance will stop the feeding of deer on public property if it is passed.

deerPhoto byJack BulmeronUnsplash

The town of Leon Valley, Texas, with a population under 15,000 at the last census, has been urging residents to stop feeding the deer for years now, but it seems deer feeding is a way of life in this small town.

Residents are Buying 'Doughnuts and Tortillas' to Feed the Deer

Leon Valley's public works director, Melinda Moritz informed the City Council about an ongoing problem with residents feeding the deer unhealthy food that lack nutritional value.

She said:

"The worst offenders go to a local bakery and buy them donuts and tortillas, nnd that is so not their diet.”  -Melinda Moritz, Public Works Director, Leon Valley

She continued:

“Deer are wild animals,” Moritz said. “In no instance is it right to be feeding or interacting with them. It just isn’t right. You’re interfering with a species that has been on this planet forever who never needed peas, or corn or tortillas.” 

There will be an additional hearing before the City Council on 4 April 2023 before an ordinance is passed, that would prohibit residents from feeding the deer on public land, such as in public parks and grassy drainage ways. The ordinance would not prevent residents from feeding deer on private property.

Deer feeding is so bad that some residents have "deer feeders" on their front lawns, and they refer to it as their lawn art.

Not the First Time an Ordinance has been Proposed

This is not the first time the town has tried to pass something like this.

Years ago the town tried to pass a similar ordinance, and residents came out in droves to City Hall, and city officials were overwhelmed with the response both for and against feeding deer, so no action was taken, other than the city posting signs on public property urging the citizens to not feed the deer.

City Councilman Jed Hefner opposes the ordinance to stop feeding deer, citing that law enforcement should not have to enforce this ordinance given their other duties.

He said:

"I don't want to see police hunting people for feeding the deer." -Jed Hefner, City Councilman, Leon Valley

2019 Facebook Post: 'Please Don't Feed the Deer'

To highlight how long this problem has been persisting, the City of Leon Valley posted on 17 December 2019 a detailed message about the growing problem of residents feeding the deer unhealthy food items with empty calories.

The Facebook post reads:

"Please Don’t Feed the Deer!
Please don’t feed the animals. Bread and snacks are unhealthy for squirrels, deer and birds. Handouts can lead to malnutrition and starvation. These animals need their natural diets. Let them find their own food, this is their natural routine. Right around this time of year, the Animal Control Officers and Public Works get lots of calls about the number of deer in and around the City and requests for pickups of dead deer from the roadways, alley, and yards. We actually see small herds of deer using the crosswalk at the library on Evers to go from the Community Center grounds to the park in the early morning or late evenings. We have one set of citizens that would like us to remove the deer from the city limits and one set of citizens that want (and do) feed and water the deer, which makes them fatter than they should be. We would appreciate it if citizens would not feed or water the deer and treat them as they truly are – wild animals, capable of finding their own food and water sources.
One of the reasons our deer population is so fat is that we have a large group of well-meaning citizens who will go to the day old bread store and buy bread, rolls, buns, and tortillas, and then they throw them in their yard or in Raymond Rimkus Park for the deer to eat. Because of this diet, we have picked up dead deer that weigh over 140 pounds! One of the signs of a healthy deer (or dog or cat) is the ability to clearly see the outline of their ribs. Lots of our deer don’t even have a suggestion of a rib!
Bread and tortillas are empty calories for deer and can actually contribute to malnutrition and disease in a deer population. If you’re offering day old tortillas, bread, and pastries, please stop. Tortillas, both flour and corn, have low to no nutritional value for a deer, and one of the ingredients is lard – a substance that deer do not eat in the wild. Though a variety of birds and mammals will eat these handouts, they just provide gut-stuffing empty calories.
Another danger is that when you put food out for deer, it’s impossible to control what other wildlife may drop in for quick bite and/or how often certain animals will visit. You may eventually realize that the blend of breads, tortillas, corn, seeds, and dried fruit that you like to put out every day also attracts squirrels, opossums, skunks, and raccoons. You might even start to recognize “regulars” who make stopping by your home a normal part of their daily routine. When these wild animals come into contact with dogs, cat, and humans, zoonotic disease may be spread and/or the dog, cat or human could be injured or killed.
Do not use corn or other fermentable carbohydrates as a primary deer food, as deer are routinely killed this way by people trying to help. Deer are browsers and have adapted to eating a wide variety of food sources, but their efficient stomachs require time to adapt to a new food source. A hungry deer that has not eaten corn recently can die within a day if it comes across a large pile of corn that it devours (bloat and acidosis). Corn is often used as a food supplement, but is low in protein and nutritional value. Corn is also high in starch and so should not be used as a primary food source.
In a perfect world, no one would feed deer. Period. That’s the advice from Jerry Feaser, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. And Dr. Anne Ballmann, veterinarian and wildlife disease specialist for the National Wildlife Health Center, agrees. Furthermore, when we feed deer (anything, not just corn), we cause them to burn extra calories to travel farther than they normally would. And they feed in large groups. Deer will congregate in neighborhoods and then eat the roses, trees, bushes, vegetable gardens, and other highly prized plantings in people’s yards.
Dr. Ballmann warns that when deer feed in large groups competing for a limited food supply, they come in close contact and easily transmit diseases and parasites. And if feeding stations are near busy roads, more deer are hit and killed by traffic.
Feaser suggests that rather than feed deer, land owners should plant native trees and shrubs that provide food (nuts and fruits) and cover (evergreens). Remember - the deer managed to feed themselves long before we started offering them snacks, and they’ll continue to fend for themselves just fine without our help! Thank you."
(Source: City of Leon Valley Facebook post, 2019)

Berries and Nuts are Better Than Doughnuts and Tortillas

The City of Leon encourages residents to plant shrubs that provide natural fruits and nuts for the deer, so they can find food for themselves. Doughnuts are not healthy for deer to eat. Most people would not go to the day-old bread store and buy food for their own dogs, so why feed it to the deer?

A deer munching on a doughnutPhoto byZ. Love

Since the problem of feeding the deer unhealthy things (i.e. doughnuts and tortillas) continues to be an ongoing problem, the city will likely enact the new ordinance, which is already in place in other Texas cities, such as New Braunfels and is strongly discouraged in San Antonio.

Please help by sharing this article on social media so friends and family can be informed about this story.


City of Leon Valley official Facebook page. 2019 Post urging residents to stop feeding deer.

Leon Valley official website.

Comments / 7

Published by

Zack covers interesting and inspiring stories that impact local communities. He has a bachelor's degree and an MBA.

Huntsville, AL

More from Zack Love

Comments / 0