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FWP Wardens: feeding wildlife is illegal

Published On: Mar 07 2013 10:39:22 AM MST   Updated On: Mar 07 2013 10:40:12 AM MST
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BOZEMAN, Mont. -

The following is a news release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

"People often feel sympathy for wildlife appearing to be stressed by winter conditions. Unfortunately, sometimes people take matters into their own hands and provide these animals an artificial source of food. And while the intent might be to help the animals through a difficult and demanding period, the end result could be injury and even death to the animals. Another unforeseen consequence is the possibility of those animals injuring a person (whether or not that person is the one doing the feeding). But it doesn't stop there.

Here's a little more on why it is against the law to feed most wildlife (including bears, deer, elk, antelope, moose, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, etc.):

·Supplemental feeding encourages wildlife to become dependent on food sources that are not part of their natural diets;

·Young animals that are taught to depend on humans sometimes never develop normal foraging behavior, and could starve if the artificial food sources are removed or more likely become nuisances and come in conflict with humans;

·Wildlife lose their fear of humans and learn that they can boldly forage for artificial food, causing possible risks to human safety;

·Wild animals being fed by humans may congregate in unnaturally high numbers, and this is the perfect opportunity for disease to spread;

·Feeding wildlife, especially prey species such as deer, squirrels and rabbits, often causes a domino or food chain effect. Example: Increase deer numbers in your yard and you may be inviting a mountain lion for a free meal;

Offenders could be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000, six months in jail and you could lose your privileges to hunt, fish or trap. The law does not apply to normal feeding of livestock, backyard gardens or to commercial processing of garbage.

In Region 3, FWP Wardens and biologists annually receive dozens of tips about artificial feeding.

Livingston Warden Drew Scott has given out four warnings about feeding deer in the last few months. Bozeman area wardens are currently working on the unlawful feeding of bighorn sheep in the Big Sky area. And over the summer of 2012, the Ennis warden caught and cited a man for illegally feeding bears in the Big Sky area. In all of the above instances, these individuals were putting themselves, their neighbors and wildlife at risk.

If you have any information about the unlawful feeding of wildlife, please call (800) TIP-MONT.