Cody Purcell was busy last week. Purcell, the district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks & Wildlife was in Cedaredge going door to door to remind well-meaning town dwellers to stop feeding wild deer. Due to concerns raised by residents adjacent to the golf course, he concentrated his efforts there -- talking to homeowners and distributing flyers.
Every winter, mule deer migrate into town and residents are under the mistaken impression that they are helping the animals by providing them with grain, corn, hay or other "domestic" food. But this is false. Deer have a unique digestive system. To thrive they must eat natural plants that are easily digested. Native plants contain important bacteria that help the deer extract nutrients. Artificial feed cannot be properly digested and eating it can kill the animal.
As Purcell puts it, well-intentioned residents can "literally love their wildlife to death."
In addition to harming the animals, fed deer are less fearful of humans and are tempted to move into yards and gardens where they can damage property and become aggressive when encountering humans and pets.
Moreover, deer that are fed tend to congregate which can lead to the spread of disease among the herd and adjacent livestock. And concentrations of deer pose another more immediate danger. A large passive deer herd attracts predators and already mountain lions have been sighted in the golf course area.
As if endangering the animals and the community were not sufficient reasons to stop feeding deer, the practice is unlawful. Under Colorado law, a person who intentionally feeds big game animals is subject to citation and fines. Purcell hopes that residents won't have to face fines once everyone is reminded that deer can manage perfectly well without artificial feeding.
Residents with questions or concerns are welcome to contact Purcell at 970-835-3851.