Artificial Mineral Licks: Longevity, Use and Attitudes

We studied longevity, depletion rate, and peak periods of use by white-tailed deer {Odocoileus virginianus) of minerals at artificial lick sites on a clay soil in the Georgia Piedmont in 1990 and 1991. We also surveyed attitudes among southeastern state wildlife agencies about providing mineral supplementation for deer. Results indicated a rapid loss of sodium (Na) to leaching. Leaching rates for calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and zinc (Zn) were low. Pure salt (NaCl), rather than a more expensive mineral mixture, can be applied in alternate years since other important minerals are still present at lick sites. Peak deer use occurred during April and May, with moderate to low use during June to November, and no use during December and January. Deer use was low the second year after establishment indicating a need for annual replenishment. Most wildlife agencies did not apply mineral supplements to public lands nor encourage application on private lands, and the agencies differed in their opinions on the role of mineral supplements in deer management. Until that role is determined, biologists should be cautious in recommending mineral supplements in a deer management program. Otherwise, non-professionals looking for quick-fix management solutions may choose mineral supplements over proven management techniques.

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