With severe winter, Utah expands deer-feeding program

OGDEN — Deep snow and freezing temperatures have led to additional deer feeding in northern Utah.

On Jan. 13, biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources and volunteers from sportsmen’s groups started an emergency deer feeding program in Garden City. Now, they’re expanding the program.

On Jan. 24, biologists and volunteers started feeding deer near Kamas in Summit County. Emergency efforts are scheduled to begin soon near Randolph in Rich County and at various spots in Cache Valley in Cache County and the Ogden Valley in Weber County.

Randy Wood, the DWR’s wildlife manager in Northern Utah, says biologists have been watching deer closely since the first week in December.

“Fortunately,” Wood says, “deer entered the winter in excellent condition. Prolonged snowfall and cold temperatures, though, are taking their toll. The deer need some help.”

To help the deer, biologists and volunteers are spreading specially designed pellets on the ground for the deer to eat. Volunteers from the Mule Deer Foundation, Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will help biologists at the various feeding sites.

Wood says the pellets are formulated to fit the complex digestive system mule deer have. They’re also formulated to give the animals the correct balance of energy and protein they need. “Feeding these specially designed pellets should improve the survival of some of the deer and help them make it through the winter,” he says.

How you can help

Many people have approached the DWR, offering to buy their own feed and to start feeding deer on their own. Wood strongly discourages you from doing that.

“We appreciate the concern many folks have about deer in Utah this winter,” he says, “but we strongly discourage people from feeding deer on their own. Deer have complex and delicate digestive systems. If you feed the wrong food to a deer, the animal can actually starve to death, even though its stomach is full of food.”

Deer pellets you can buy in stores are among the items you shouldn’t feed to deer. Wood says the pellets biologists are feeding the deer are specially designed to match the deers’ digestive system and give the animals the protein and energy they need. Other reasons to not feed deer on your own are available on the wildlife blog.

Biologists watching deer statewide

Northern Utah isn’t the only place where biologists are watching deer closely. Since the first week in December, biologists across Utah have been monitoring deer, snow depth, temperature and the ability deer have to find food.

“Right now,” Wood says, “Northern Utah is the only place where deer are in need of feeding.”

The decision to feed deer in parts of northern Utah was made following guidelines in the DWR’s Emergency Winter Big Game Feeding policy. Actively monitoring big game and their habitat in the winter is an important management function that helps protect Utah’s deer herds.

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