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

Nanaimo’s ‘Kidney Condo’ accommodates out-of-town dialysis patients

Facility first of its kind on Vancouver Island, according to Kidney Foundation of Canada

Warrant issued for man who wielded machete across from Nanaimo’s tent city last year

William Robert Francis Carrigan failed to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo on Tuesday

Working smoke alarms found in fewer than one-third of residential fires in Nanaimo

Nanaimo Fire Rescue urges residents to install smoke alarms in homes

Nanaimo Ladysmith education support workers’ deal ratified

CUPE Local 606, Nanaimo school district and bargaining agent ratify deal, which runs till June 2022

VIU professor writes over Shakespeare in new book of poetry

In ‘Sonnet’s Shakespeare,’ Sonnet L’Abbé superimposes her own poems over the sonnets of the Bard

VIDEO: Title of 25th Bond movie is ‘No Time to Die’

The film is set to be released in April 2020

Police watchdog investigating two officers after Langley teen’s suspected overdose

According to IIO, two officers were deployed to help Carson Crimeni but did not locate him before he died

Huawei executive’s defence team alleges Canadians were ‘agents’ of the FBI

eng’s arrest at Vancouver’s airport has sparked a diplomatic crisis between Canada and China

Trans Mountain gives contractors 30 days to get workers, supplies ready for pipeline

Crown corporation believes the expansion project could be in service by mid-2022

On vaccines, abortion, Goop, doctor Jen Gunter says: ‘I have a duty to speak up’

She speaks out on menstruation, the wellness industry and vaccines

B.C. father tells judge he did not kill his young daughters

Andrew Berry pleaded not guilty to the December 2017 deaths

New study suggests autism overdiagnosed: Canadian expert

Laurent Mottron: ‘Autistic people we test now are less and less different than typical people’

B.C. seniors allowed more choice to stay in assisted living

Province doesn’t need to wait for a complaint to investigate care, Adrian Dix says

Most Read