A moose browses on twigs, struggling to survive infestation of winter ticks. Supplemental feeding can gather animals together, increasing disease and parasite transmission. (Dustin Godfrey/B.C. government)

Winter feeding best left to wildlife experts

B.C. warns of diet shift dangers for moose, deer, elk, sheep

With cold weather and deep snow, setting out hay to help grazing wildlife through the winter seems like a kind thing to do.

It isn’t, and it may hasten the death of hoofed animals like moose, deer, elk and wild sheep, B.C. wildlife biologists warn.

A bulletin from the forests ministry notes that supplemental feeding can have “serious negative consequences for ungulates,” the technical term for hoofed wildlife with digestive systems adapted to harsh conditions and elements. One of them is sickness or starvation with a rumen filled with supplemental feed that it can’t digest.

“Ungulates, as ruminants, have food requirements that vary seasonally,” the ministry says. “It takes weeks for the bacteria in their digestive tract to adapt to changes in diet. A sudden shift from natural winter forage to supplemental feed can result in sickness or death.”

Feeding wildlife can also attract them nearer to communities, leading to human conflict, damage to winter habitat and higher risk of parasite and disease transmission. Animals gathering at feeding sites compete for food, with dominant animals gorging themselves while weaker animals get nothing. Feeding sites can also attract predators.

Wildlife biologists study snow depth and animal condition before doing small-scale supplemental feeding, which can be helpful to draw animals away from farms and roadways.

The ministry notes that even in well-functioning ecosystems, some animals die in winter. This is the natural regulation of population, keeping it in balance with the habitat available to wild animals.

Wildlife

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Friends, family suprise Current Swell singer and new wife with socially distant wedding

‘We just thought we were going over there to have a glass of champagne and do some paperwork’

‘How not to handle social isolation concerns’: Victoria police respond to confrontation with firearm

Police seize replica firearms after one resident confronts another over social distancing

Saanich swimmer Lauren Crisp in running for rookie-of-the-year

Saanich swimmer Lauren Crisp, Oak Bay’s Diego Maffia in running for rookie-of-the-year

Victoria company compares drone footage of city streets between August and now

Fewer cars, people seen on streets and at landmarks

As 240K apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

Health officials had previously not recommended wearing them

COVID-19 world update: 1,000 cases hit U.S. military; Good news in Spain, Portugal

Comprehensive collection of coronavirus news from around the world

Vancouver Island teen singer advances to American Idol top 20

Lauren Spencer-Smith performs Respect at outdoor concert in Hawaii

Businesses advised to prepare for federal, B.C. COVID-19 assistance

Canada Revenue Agency portal expected to open this week

Bars, cannabis sector eligible for $40B credit program from government bank

Applicants must go through their own banks to access the program

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Most Read