You're not helping the deer at Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook by leaving them food.

Visitors to the national park are leaving portions of donuts, bales of hay, apples and corn for the growing deer population in the belief they are helping deer survive the winter, Gateway unit manager Pete McCarthy told Townsquare Media News.

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Instead they're making the deer more dependent on humans and contributing to a menace.

"You're more than welcome to take a picture and post it but please don't feed the deer because in the end it doesn't help the deer and it doesn't help us," McCarthy said.

McCarthy said by providing food for the deer it distracts them away from their regular winter habitat and attracts them to people, which causes accidents, McCarthy said. There have been over 10 crashes on Gateway property involving deer in the past year, he said.

Feeding the deer also harms them by potentially introducing germs and diseases they're not used to, McCarthy said.

Feeding wildlife in a national park is also prohibited which carries a $5,000 fine.

The deer population has grow to more than 100 in recent years, raising concerns about how to control the population. Sterilization has been used in other parks to control the population; hunting is prohibited in national parks.

"There really are no natural predators so this is something the Park Service is going to be looking at in the near future and figure out the best way to deal with the problem. It's not healthy for the deer and it's also not healthy for us," McCarthy said.

The best way to help the deer is to leave them alone, according to McCarthy.

Deer at Sandy Hook at the Gateway National Recreation Area
Deer at Sandy Hook at the Gateway National Recreation Area (National Park Service)

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