Handouts don’t help, but do harm, wildlife | VailDaily.com

Handouts don’t help, but do harm, wildlife

A herd of elk bed down in the baseball field at Battle Mountain High School. Even though wildlife often find their way to developed areas, officials with Colorado State Parks and Wildlife warn residents against feeding animals.
Enterprise file photo |

Winter is here and that means animals will have to search a little harder for food. Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants to remind people that the best way to help hungry animals is to let them find their next meal on their own.

“People may mean well, but those who feed deer do more harm than good,” said Scott Murdoch, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer. A law passed in 1992 makes it illegal to feed big game animals. This includes deer, elk, pronghorn, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, mountain lions and bears. Feeding wildlife is bad for the animals and dangerous for people, for a number of different reasons.

In the wild, deer and elk naturally spread out when grazing or browsing for food. Artificial feeding encourages them to crowd together making it easier to spread disease throughout a herd. Also, artificial concentrations of deer in neighborhoods results in increased vehicle collisions and conflicts with dogs harassing deer.

Deer are the primary prey of mountain lions and large gatherings of deer can attract lions into neighborhoods, putting people, livestock and pets at risk. The mountain lions are also then put in danger because it may become necessary to kill them if they become a threat to human health and safety.

“Every winter, officer’s deal with numerous pets and livestock that get killed by mountain lions because homeowners are feeding deer; deer do just fine without the public’s help,” said Murdoch.

Wild animals have complex digestive systems and their natural diet is difficult to duplicate. Food from human sources can also lead to malnutrition, a disruption in natural migration patterns and death.

To report incidents of feeding or other illegal wildlife activity contact a local Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Rewards may be offered if the information leads to a citation.

For more information, please visit: http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/LivingwithWildlifeDeeraspx.

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