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

UPDATE: Man arrested in shooting on Abbotsford street near Aldergrove

Nobody injured in shooting, which is not believed to be related to gang conflicts

For Langley farms with no farmers and farmers with no farms, a solution

Township supports land matching program to aid new farmers

LETTER: Heartwarming honesty so very much appreciated

A Langley woman who attended the RCMP Musical Ride hopes a kind man reads her letter of thanks.

Suspected spill kills hundreds of crayfish, coho in Langley river

A fish kill in the Nicomekl has a biologist concerned for the health of the local ecosystem.

Rams harvest sweet victory in win over Huskers

The Chilliwack team found itself pushed back again and again.

64 cats seized from ‘bad situation’ now in BC SPCA care

The surrender is part of an ongoing animal cruelty investigation with BC SPCA Special Constable

Are you feeling lazy? That’s OK – it’s just science

UBC study shows that humans are hardwired to prefer being sloth-like

LETTER: Who do we blame for the tragedy of Marissa Shen’s death?

The B.C. girl was killed in a Burnaby park last July

Competition tribunal to hear B.C.-based case on airline food starting in October

The competition commissioner argued Vancouver airport authority had exploited its market position

Trudeau says Canada wants to see ‘movement’ before signing revised NAFTA deal

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is back in Washington in search of a way to bridge divide

Seek compromise with U.S. on cannabis at border, lawyers urge Ottawa

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency sent tremors through Canada’s burgeoning cannabis sector

Young people need us to act on climate change, McKenna tells G7 ministers

Catherine McKenna led off the three-day Halifax gathering Wednesday

UPDATE: Man arrested in shooting on Abbotsford street near Aldergrove

Nobody injured in shooting, which is not believed to be related to gang conflicts

5 to start your day

B.C. parents sue after toddler dies in unlicensed daycare, vehicle explodes in Pitt Meadows and more

Most Read