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Game and Fish: Please don’t feed wildlife impacted by winter storm

(WCAX)
Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 11:59 PM CDT
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WHEATLAND, Wyo. (Release) - The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking for the public’s cooperation concerning big game animals affected by the recent winter storm.

Deep snow and limited access to food sources have forced pronghorn and deer closer to residential areas, especially in the Wheatland area and parts of Laramie County. The animals are using plowed roads and driveways to avoid deep snow drifts and are ending up in residential yards. Game and Fish reminds residents to avoid feeding these animals because it can result in serious health problems for them and conflicts with humans.

Artificial feeding tends to concentrate animals together, which is a rich environment for transmission of diseases such as chronic wasting disease. “When animals are struggling through winter on poor feed, their immune systems are weakened, allowing diseases and parasites to take hold,” said Robin Kepple, Information Specialist for the Game and Fish Department’s Laramie Region. In addition, mule deer in particular often cannot properly digest food sources outside their normal diet. Feeding can also result in high concentrations of deer in localized areas resulting in damage to residential landscaping, which can cause further conflicts with neighbors.

Artificial feeding can also result in conflicts with dogs and other domestic animals. Residents are asked to bring their dogs indoors if deer, pronghorn or other wildlife are congregating near homes. Congregations of big game animals can also lure large carnivores such as mountain lions close to human dwellings. Feeding also brings animals to areas where they are more likely to cross roadways where their risk of being struck by vehicles is greater. “At best, feeding big game animals is only successful in making people who are compassionate about wildlife feel better, and at worst it could be the factor that ultimately leads to an animal’s death,” Kepple said.

Severe winter storms can take a toll on big game animals and it’s not uncommon for some individuals to succumb to the conditions. “We expect some mortality from late-winter storms for a couple of reasons,” Kepple said. “The snow is wet and heavy, which makes it hard for the animals to move around. Also, by mid-March they’ve already struggled through several months of winter and have lost much of their body fat. It’s inevitable that some are going to die, but feeding them is not the answer. In the end, it does more harm than good.”

The Game and Fish Department asks the public to report any big game animals that appear to be sick or not acting in a normal manner by contacting the Laramie office immediately at (307) 745-4046.

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