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

Robert Barron column: Respect needed for 911 program

The dispatcher said she would send a police unit to my home

Increased rental construction boosts housing starts across Vancouver Island

Rest of the Vancouver Island experiencing spillover effect from Greater Victoria

Sign of the times: Park to be called John Dean and ȽÁU,WELNEW

Adam Olsen confirms park to be named ȽÁU,WELNEW/John Dean Provincial Park

15-year-old Nanaimo singer who had viral Facebook video releases single

Lauren Spencer-Smith recently appeared on American comedian Steve Harvey’s talk show

Column: Rest in peace, customer service

Customer service on the phone is often lacking; online it’s nearly non-existent

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several day, but grew substantially Sunday

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to B.C.

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone charity weekend in Kelowna

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Two cats die in house fire in Nanaimo

Fire happened just after 2 p.m. Sunday on Fifth Street, one resident displaced

Most Read