Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges residents not to feed wildlife |

Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges residents not to feed wildlife

Two mule deer bucks in velvet eating near Bailey, Colorado.
Courtesy David Hannigan, Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds residents that aside from possibly being illegal, feeding big game wildlife can also seriously harm the animals.

“Native species are well adapted to survive the winter months on natural food sources,” said J. Wenum, an area wildlife manager for CPW in Gunnison. “Feeding big game, especially deer, whether it’s hay, corn, dog food or other livestock-type food, can kill them. Their digestive systems aren’t designed to handle these types of rich foods.”

Unfortunately, every year, deer get sick and die because of food left out for them by residents.

“People want to help. But the reality of it is that feeding generally doesn’t help wildlife, it harms them,” Wenum said. “Winter is a tough time of year, and it has always been how nature eliminates the sick, the weak and less-fit animals from the population. It’s ironic, but the toughest time of the year is what makes wildlife populations healthy.”

Feeding animals can cause other problems. Deer crowding around a food source can transfer diseases or parasites from animal to animal. When animals bunch up they also become easy targets for predators, including mountain lions. While deer and mountain lions have evolved naturally together, having large predators in residential areas is not natural and risks danger to both human and animal.

Feeding big game can draw them away from their natural habitats and disturb migration patterns. In some areas, deer that have been fed during the winter haven’t moved on as they should when spring arrives.

Feeding is not just a concern with big game. CPW also advises people to refrain from feeding small animals such as coyotes, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and turkeys. These animals also aren’t equipped to eat human-provided food. And just like deer, animals can bunch up, draw in predators and create unnecessary conflicts.

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