Teton Basin Emergency Feeding Declared
Recent early heavy snows in the Upper Valley have helped to brighten prospects for farmers and ranchers, but at the cost of creating harsher present conditions for wintering wildlife. In the case of the eastern side of the Teton Basin, already about 175 mule deer have shown up on the flats near human development. The conditions both in the hills and in the basin are dramatic enough that the Region 6 Winter Feeding Advisory Committee has declared an emergency along the east side of Teton Valley.
Approximately 175 deer have congregated at four sites and about another 60 elk have appeared at a separate site. In addition to beginning to feed the deer, the elk will be fed to keep them out of the deer sites. Winter feeding of big game is a situation not entered into lightly. According to Regional Landowner Sportsman Coordinator Paul Faulkner, "The winter feeding advisory committee has had specific condition criteria in place for a number of years. This year's snow crust conditions have already exceeded the limits needed to trigger emergency winter feeding by early January!"
While IDFG is the management agency in charge and responsible for covering much of the operational costs of emergency feeding from a fund that collects $1.50 from each big game tag sold, they are by no means alone in their concern for wildlife in the Teton Basin. According to Faulkner, "The Teton Valley Wildlife Association have been on top of this from the start and the Teton County Commissioners have also been key players in helping to get things rolling." Along with governmental and sporting group support, individual private landowners and sportsmen will play a pivotal role in making the operation a success. All of the winter feeding sites will be located on private land, with most of the actual daily feeding being handled by volunteers.
According to Regional Wildlife Manager Daryl Meints, "It's important for people to understand that winter feeding is serious business. Once you start, you cannot stop until the deer decide that they are ready to leave. It's a major commitment!"
The public is reminded that feeding of wintering wildlife is done on an emergency basis in response to specific criteria set by regional winter feeding advisory committees. Legislation passed last year makes individual unsanctioned "recreational" feeding of wildlife illegal and managed under the auspices of the Idaho Department of Agriculture.