Don’t feed the deer and elk, Eagle Co. |

Don’t feed the deer and elk, Eagle Co.

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Elk and deer may be struggling through a snowy, cold and difficult winter, but it’s still illegal to feed them, says the Division of Wildlife.

Winter 2008 has been rough on animals, but the Division of Wildlife still hasn’t seen the need to start a “feeding program.” The last time the Division of Wildlife fed starving deer and elk was the winter of 1984-1984, said Craig Wescoatt, the district wildlife manager.

They’ll only consider feeding animals if they see evidence that more than 30 percent of fully grown females will die, he said.

The Division of Wildlife has though started a “baiting program” for ranchers in Eagle County. Because the elk are desperate for food, they’re heading to the stacks of hay that feed horses and cattle.

The Division of Wildlife is replacing some of this hay for the ranchers, and even giving them some extra to strategically place and move the elk away from where the cattle feed.

“We’ll put out some additional hay, to make sure the horses and cows get what they need, and so the elk won’t be fighting with these animals,” Wescoatt said.

For everyone else though, feeding these wild animals is both illegal and harmful. If you put out grass hay for mule deer, for instance, they won’t be able to digest it, and they could die.

“The best you can do is give them as much room as possible,” Wescoatt said. “Don’t disturb them, leave them alone. Anytime you make them move, they have to burn calories, which makes it harder for them to survive.”

Every day, more ranchers have called the Division of Wildlife asking for help with hay, so Wescoatt won’t rule out the possibility yet that a feeding program could start in the future.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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