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.

Just Posted

Port Alberni’s deepsea port was a busy place on July 14, 2020, with recreational boaters vying for attention with a logging ship, fishing vessels large and small, tugboats and more. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Quinn: ‘Port’ Alberni lives up to its deepsea name

Port Alberni’s harbour is an engaging place to stop and watch the action on the water…

Emily Harris (centre) started the in-person Monarch Moms meet-up groups in July, when it was much easier to physical distance in outdoor spaces. Harris started the group as a source of connection for women navigating the ups and downs of having a baby during a pandemic. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Victoria new mom group navigates challenges of motherhood in a pandemic

Monarch Moms meet once a week for physically-distanced connection

Courtenay artist Bill Bolten recently presented Dr. Bonnie Henry with this carving of a yellow warbler. Photo supplied.
Courtenay carver creates gift for Dr. Bonnie Henry

Bill Bolten presented the carving to B.C.’s public health officer in person

Painters Jim Tulip, Doug Mackenzie and Gary Henslowe were painting the exterior of the Duncan Butcher Shop and Apple Press printing shop, located between the Trans Canada Highway and Whistler Street, on Oct. 8 as part of neighbourhood painting project. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan’s Whistler Street sees a fresh lick of paint in opioid battle

Group wants to help clean up community, one street at a time

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Visitors stroll through Goldstream Provincial Park on a calm, crisp Sunday. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Visitors flock to Goldstream Provincial Park for 2020 salmon run

‘I wanted to come here before I move back to Australia,’ says visitor

File Photo
Planned power outage in Port Alice Oct. 27

BC Hydro crews to work from midnight to 4 a.m. replacing substation equipment

Greg Duerksen and his family. (gofundme photo)
Firefighter prepares for stem cell transplant

Friends rally to help raise funds for Duerksen family

Legendary Vancouver-based blues and jazz guitarist and vocalist Jim Byrnes will perform live at the Tidemark Theatre in a concert that will also be streamed. Contributed photo
Legendary blues musician and actor Jim Byrnes hits the Island

Playing Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre for a hybrid live/online show

Conservation officers hope the public can provide information about who shot and left a bull and cow Roosevelt elk near Spruston Road, south of Nanaimo. (Facebook photo)
Pair of Roosevelt elk shot and left in woods south of Nanaimo

Conservation officers hope public can help find who killed the animals near Spruston Road

Most Read