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Don't feed the deer
2/22/2008 By: Carole McWilliams
It’s been a tough winter, but don’t feed the deer and elk, Colorado Division of Wildlife Officer Cary Carron says.
Especially don’t feed grass hay to deer. Carron says they don’t have the stomach bacteria needed to digest it, so it just jams up in them and they die.
Area animals are doing all right, based on examination of leg bone marrow in road-killed animals, Carron said. Even so, the reality is that some fawns and old animals won’t survive the winter.
Feeding big game is illegal, and it creates risks to public safety, property, and the wildlife herds.
Carron passed on a report from Area Wildlife Manager Patt Dorsey. CDOW makes feeding decisions based on science and experience, and will institute feeding when necessary, Dorsey said.
But it’s a last choice effort “to stave off catastrophic impacts on big game populations.”
CDOW defines that as pending die-off of more than 30 percent of the female herd population. Feeding must be authorized by the Colorado Wildlife Commission.
When that happens, deer are fed a specially formulated wafer.
Dorsey said this has been “a more typical Colorado winter – eight years of mild winters have given people a perception that this winter is catastrophic when it’s not.”
In many areas there are more deer and elk than the habitat can support, she said. Feeding causes animals to concentrate and increases chances for disease to spread.
“Winter kill is a natural and biological event that eliminates sick, very young and old animals from populations,” Dorsey said. “Feeding these animals to prevent die-off only prolongs the inevitable.”
She continued, “The difference this year is that deep snow is pushing these dying animals into places where people are seeing this occur. It is an understandably tough thing for people who are not used to it (to see), and they naturally, but wrongly, assume that it is preventable.”