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CPW urges public to refrain from feeding wildlife, issues citations

Forest Lakes resident cited for letting deer eat hay stored in garage
Deer that are fed lose their fear of humans and can become demanding and dangerous. (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

After several reported incidents that have led to citations already this year, including one in the Forest Lakes subdivision, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is urging the public to refrain from feeding wildlife.

Feeding wildlife is illegal and harmful, according to a news release issued by CPW. It causes large numbers of animals to congregate, which increases the spread of disease.

“Areas where animals are fed accumulate feces, saliva and urine that can harbor parasites, bacteria, viruses and prions that cause chronic wasting disease.” CPW said in the release.

Winter feeding is particularly dangerous for wildlife, as they are also prone to stress in winter conditions.

CPW wildlife officers recently cited a resident in the Forest Lakes subdivision who allowed deer to eat hay stored in a garage.

“In some cases, deer given grass hay have starved to death with full stomachs because the hay did not provide the balanced nutrition the deer needed,” CPW wrote.

A deer bedded down in grass hay in 2017. The hay filled the stomach of the deer, but it died of starvation because the hay lacked adequate nutrition. (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)
Human-provided food can kill deer. Colorado Parks and Wildlife asks residents not to feed deer and other wildlife. (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

“It’s always difficult to see the unintentional harm done to these animals,” said Karen Fox, CPW wildlife pathologist. “I would like to believe that most people would refrain from feeding wildlife if they knew the harm it could cause.”

Residents may feel compelled to feed deer in the winter because of the perceived lack of natural food sources. But CPW says it is natural for deer to gradually adapt to smaller winter diets. Deer that are suddenly given a lot of food suffer a shock to their digestive system that can make normal digestion difficult and even cause acid burns to the stomach.

Feeding wildlife is not only harmful for animals, it is also dangerous for humans, according to CPW. Regularly fed animals that are too comfortable around humans can become demanding and aggressive.

“In cases where wildlife breaks into houses or cause harm to humans, those animals have to be euthanized,” said District Wildlife Manager Philip Gurule. “So by simply not feeding wildlife and keeping them wild, it helps both wildlife and humans alike.”

CPW urges residents with bird feeders to be sure they are out of reach of deer and bears. They also encourage residents with fruit trees to consistently pick up fallen fruit to avoid wildlife gathering in their yard.

To report an incident of humans feeding wildlife, contact the Durango CPW office.

For more information about the dangers of feeding wildlife, check out CPW’s video series about the subject at CPW’s YouTube channel.


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