Colorado DOW Asks Residents Not to Feed Deer

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The Colorado Division of Wildlife urges state residents and visitors not to feed deer that are hanging around their yards or property.

"Deer require a very specific diet," explained Don Masden, a biologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. "If they eat the wrong food they'll just die with a full stomach."

Deer digest very slowly and if they eat the wrong types of food and too much food they will not be able to digest or pass the material and they will die. So, deer should not be fed hay, pet food, fruits, vegetables or any type of table scraps.

If you have sage brush or other shrubs on your property, knock the snow off of those to expose some natural food for the animals.

"Feeding deer the wrong food will cause more harm than good," Masden said.

Deer are most affected by the severe winter conditions that western Colorado is experiencing this year. But no food should be provided to any big game, officials emphasized.

Elk and bighorn sheep are better adapted to survive severe winters. Elk can eat a wider variety of material and because of their size can push and dig through deep snow to find food. Bighorn sheep live in steep areas that don't hold snow, so they are not as affected by the snow depth.

The DOW will be conducting a winter feeding operation aimed at deer in the Gunnison Basin. A feed developed specifically for deer that has been formulated by DOW scientists will be used.

The DOW office will attempt to make some of that feed available to property owners. However, feed will not be delivered to the Gunnison office until sometime next week. Residents are asked to wait until mid-week to inquire about available feed.

So far deer in the Gunnison Basin are in pretty good shape given the weather conditions. But based on past experience, wildlife managers know that the weather could soon start to take its toll on deer.

The DOW is looking for volunteers to help with the feeding effort. Those who can volunteer for several days should call Jennifer Kleffner, southwest volunteer coordinator, at (970)375-6704.