Utah deploys emergency feeding stations for struggling deer


Photo credit: Dreamstime

Deep snow and little food have Utah deer struggling in Rich and Summit counties. As a result, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) has deployed emergency deer feeding and additional patrols to keep tabs on the local herds.

“In the areas where we're feeding, the vegetation that deer eat in the winter is completely covered by snow,” said Jim Christensen, UDWR Northern Region Wildlife Manager.

On Jan. 20, UDWR biologists, landowners, hunters and other volunteers set up 11 feeding locations in Rich County and one location in Summit County, according to the agency. Specially formulated pellets are located at these feed stations that “meet the nutritional needs of deer.” No additional products like alfalfa or hay will be used.

“Deer will eat hay, but if that is their only source of feed during the winter they can have a very difficult time digesting it,” said Christensen. “We often find dead deer with stomachs filled with hay. We appreciate people wanting to help the deer, but we strongly discourage people from feeding hay or other things to deer. These are special circumstances that follow Division policies, involve trained professionals and utilize specialized feed. We still recommend that the public doesn't feed wildlife, due to safety concerns, among other things.”

UDWR biologists will continue to monitor winter conditions and body fat/health of the deer across the state. If necessary, more deer feeding stations will be set up in other locations; however, there will not be any in areas where chronic wasting disease is confirmed, according to the agency.

“Mule deer have evolved with harsh weather, and a few deer dying in years with severe weather is expected,” said Dax Mangus, UDWR Big Game Coordinator. “This natural cycle can actually benefit a deer population by removing sick animals and older animals that aren't contributing to the population through reproduction. However, there are times and areas when winter weather is so severe that it becomes necessary to implement emergency feeding to protect adult does, which are the reproductive segment of the deer population. Even with emergency feeding, we still anticipate the loss of some fawns and sick or old animals.”

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