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'Keep wildlife wild': Feeding wildlife can do more harm than good

Posted at 9:23 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-25 14:02:50-05

IDAHO — 'Keep wildlife wild.' That is Idaho Fish and Game's message to Idahoans after a recent problem they've seen with people feeding wildlife.

“These animals have survived without us for a long time, and they can get through winter without our help," Roger Phillips, IDFG Public Information Supervisor said. "They survive on their fat stores and they can last quite a while.”

In McCall, deer have no fear of visitors interested in feeding them. The deer were not scared of humans and were taking food right out of their hands. IDFG said this is a problem and no matter how cute people think they may be, feeding wild animals is not acceptable.

“No disagreement whatsoever they are incredibly cute, and the McCall situation is a really good example of we have a bunch of deer living in town, and they’re not migrating," Phillips said. "They live there during winter where they shouldn’t be."

Phillips said it comes down to keeping wildlife wild and letting them do what deer and elk are supposed to do.

"Which is moving to lower elevations during winter where they can find their own food or just settle down and survive through winter and do their natural migrations. Then when they can’t it tends to cause some problems,” he said.

When deer and elk find food sources from people they end up not migrating and start living in towns or around people, a problem they are recently seeing.

"They become a traffic hazard, they are frequently getting hit by cars, and or people are slowing down to look at them which is perfectly natural, but definitely a hazard," Phillips said.

Deer and elk are also herd animals, which creates a problem when someone starts feeding them.

"When some find food in a certain area others join them and so when someone is throwing out a little bit of food for a couple of deer, then in a few days, it can often be twice as many and start growing exponentially where suddenly they have a dozen deer that are showing outside their house every day expecting food," Phillips said.

"Most people don’t want to provide that food, and we don’t want them to provide that food, but then they are kind of stuck in a situation because those deer tend to move off to where they can find food which is a neighbors house, or again where we don’t want them," he added.

Then, when you have deer and elk that are food dependent on people it can also bring in unwanted predators.

"We don’t see this as much but it is a very realistic possibility," Phillips said. "You have a bunch of deer that are settled into one area and they can attract predators, which is typically mountain lions. We don’t really want mountain lions in towns because then we have to do something about that too."