Handouts harm, don’t help, wildlife


By Abbie Walls

Special to The SUN

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 Kevin Madler, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer in Walsenburg.

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.

Deer are the primary prey of mountain lions and a large gathering of them can attract lions into neighborhoods, putting people 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.

“If you want to do wild animals a favor, don’t change their natural behavior. Watch them from a distance and allow them to remain wild,” Madler said.

Wild animals have complex digestive systems and their natural diet is difficult to duplicate. Food from human sources can 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://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/LivingWithWildlife/Mammals/Pages/HelpDeer.aspx.