What is a Salt Lick?

Mary McMahon

A salt lick is a deposit of mineral salts used by animals to supplement their nutrition, ensuring that they get enough minerals in their diets. A wide assortment of animals, primarily herbivores, use salt licks to get essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium, sodium, and zinc. When a salt lick appears, animals may travel to reach it, so the salt lick becomes a sort of rally point where lots of wildlife can be observed.

Salt licks may be used to attract deer and other wildlife.
Salt licks may be used to attract deer and other wildlife.

Farmers have historically provided salt licks for their cattle, horses, and other herbivores to encourage healthy growth and development. Typically a salt lick in the form of a block is used in these circumstances, and the block may be mounted on a platform so that domesticated animals do not consume dirt from the ground along with the necessary salt. Salt blocks for farm animals can also be treated with medications, which may be convenient when someone needs to medicate shy animals, or a large group of animals.

Wildlife biologists may use salt licks to assist them in tracking populations, such as moose.
Wildlife biologists may use salt licks to assist them in tracking populations, such as moose.

Some people also use artificial salt licks to attract wildlife such as deer and moose, along with smaller creatures like squirrels. Animals may be attracted purely for the pleasure of the humans who install the salt lick with the goal of watching or photographing animals around the salt lick, and they are also used by hunters to encourage potential prey to frequent an area. Wildlife biologists may use salt licks as well, to assist them in tracking populations, and wildlife salt licks can also be medicated; deer, for example, might be fed birth control to keep them from proliferating in areas where there are few natural predators.

Artificial salt licks for wildlife come in two forms: blocked and bagged. Bagged salt licks are designed to be buried in pits to create a more realistic form of salt lick, with the salts and minerals leaching out in wet weather to form a salt deposit which will attract animals. Block licks can be installed directly on the ground, or mounted on platforms, depending on personal taste.

The universal popularity of salt licks with a wide range of animals illustrates the ways in which wildlife naturally seek out nutrition which is essential to their survival. Salt licks can also provide nutrition for predators, in the form of conveniently-located prey who may be distracted by the salt lick long enough to become a snack.

Salt licks are used to attract both large and small animals.
Salt licks are used to attract both large and small animals.

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Discussion Comments


I would like to know what to use as a hardener in making a block salt link for cattle instead of cement. Can you please guide me in the steps and the processes to follow in order to make the best block salt link?


@ Framemaker- I'm not implying that you use salt licks for deer hunting, but I recommend that you let the cattle have the salt licks. Can you really consider yourself a hunter if you have to bait an animal (once again not you, but anyone who would rather bait game than hunt it)? Hunting is about getting in tune with nature, tracking your prey, and being thankful when you harvest that animal’s bounty.

I believe that if you aren't skilled or dedicated enough to spend days in the field tracking your prey and overcoming your fear, then you shouldn't be hunting. The mount on your wall only means something if you actually conquered nature to get it.


@ Framemaker- Whether or not using salt licks to attract deer and other wildlife for hunting would depend largely on where it is you hunt. Many states outlaw using salt licks, baiting or any other artificial means of attracting large concentrations of wildlife. The fundamental reasons behind this often have little to do hunting ethics; rather, it has to do with public safety and disease transmission. Use of salt licks and baiting cause deer to congregate closer to human populations, become dependent on humans for food and nutrition, and will often attract diseased animals that cannot forage on their own. These animals are more likely to expose healthy segments of deer populations with diseases like chronic wasting disease, which is transmitted through saliva.


Is it legal to attract deer with salt licks for hunting?

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