Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials urge residents not to feed wildlife after pair of ‘egregious’ incidents
FRISCO — After a pair of serious incidents on the Front Range led to criminal charges, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is hoping to remind residents and visitors around the state that feeding wildlife is not only extremely harmful to animals but also illegal.
While the agency tries to send out reminders annually about the dangers of feeding wild animals, the most recent “egregious” incidents uncovered by wildlife officers in Jefferson and Park counties have officials anxious to reaffirm the message.
“It is selfish and unethical to feed big game,” wildlife manager Mark Lamb said in a release. “You are going to end up unintentionally killing those animals and also putting yourself in harm’s way. If what you want is a pet or just to connect with an animal, choose a domestic breed that has evolved to live with people.”
One incident Parks and Wildlife is referring to occurred in a residential subdivision in Bailey, where a homeowner was feeding deer in his yard, eventually leading deer to rush to his house from surrounding properties anytime he went outside. In another case, an Evergreen woman was caught luring deer inside her home with apples, carrots and bananas.
Wildlife officers have since made contact with both offenders, and have filed charges against them. According to the agency, violations for feeding big-game wildlife can result in a $100 fine per incident, along with mandatory surcharges.
“Whether you believe feeding is correct or not, it is against the law,” wildlife officer Scott Murdoch said.
Aside from the criminal aspect of feeding wild animals, it also can lead to a lot of trouble for humans and wildlife. According to Parks and Wildlife, attracting deer to your property by feeding them often causes them to congregate in one area, disrupting their natural migration patterns. That disruption can create nonmigratory “resident herds” that degrade habitats and enable the spread of illnesses like chronic wasting disease.
Along with disturbing migration patterns, animals can die if fed the wrong food. The grouping together of deer or other big game also can attract predators to the area, such as mountain lions.
“If you are training deer to come and stay in your backyard, you are asking mountain lions to be in your neighborhood, as well,” Lamb said in the release.
The illegal feeding of big game animals is a common problem throughout the state, according to Parks and Wildlife. In January, a dozen individuals were contacted for feeding animals in trouble areas like Evergreen, Conifer and Bailey.
“I commonly find that mountain residents believe feeding deer and elk is a helpful and harmless act, but doing so habituates these animals to people in ways that completely alter the natural distribution of elk and deer and disrupts their natural wild behavior,” wildlife officer Joe Nicholson said in the release. “Turning your yard into a virtual zoo by feeding deer and elk is not safe for people, not healthy for wildlife and is truly a selfish act. The proper way to enjoy viewing wildlife is to do so from a safe distance and without artificially introducing feed, salt or other attractants that alter their natural use of the landscape and aversion to people.”
To learn more about the dangers of feeding wildlife, visit the Parks and Wildlife website at CPW.state.co.us.