Feeding wildlife can bring costly fines


Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are reminding the public about the negative consequences of feeding wildlife. The agency cautions that in addition to being harmful for the health of wild animals, it is illegal to feed deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn, bears and elk in Colorado.

Wildlife belongs to the public and officials encourage everyone to be responsible and avoid feeding, harassing or approaching any wild animal. Violators may receive fines from communities where feeding violates local ordinances, or from wildlife officers enforcing state laws.

“Most people mean well and probably believe that they are helping wild animals by tossing them their snacks,” said Ron Velarde, northwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildife. “However, they are in fact causing more harm than good and we will do what we can to educate the public and discourage the practice, including issuing citations.”

As bears awake from their seasonal slumber, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials have begun their yearly effort to remind the public about the negative consequences of feeding bears, or leaving pet food, trash and other food attractants available to them.

According to state wildlife officials, bears, coyotes and other predators that become conditioned to human-provided food often seek the easy meals aggressively. These conflicts can result in fed animals having to be put down when they become a threat to human health and safety.

In addition, wildlife managers warn that large numbers of deer gathering around human-provided food near homes can attract mountain lions to a neighborhood, putting people and pets at higher risk.

“That’s just one of the more serious, unintended consequences of feeding wildlife,” said Bill de Vergie, area wildlife manager in Meeker. “It’s irresponsible to put your entire community at risk by attracting deer and other wildlife to residential areas.”

A wild animal’s natural diet can be difficult to duplicate added de Vergie, adding that people often provide them with food that is harmful to their digestive system, including candy and chips.

Another serious consequence of feeding deer, elk and other big game animals is that it congregates them in large groups, significantly increasing the possibility of spreading diseases such as chronic wasting disease that could eventually lead to higher mortality.

Some homeowners claim that they feed deer to prevent damage to landscaping and ornamental plants; however, the practice only attracts more deer and can result in increased damage to their yard, or their neighbor’s yard. Wildlife managers recommend the use of barriers and other deterrents instead, including fencing or commercially available sprays.

To report incidents of feeding or other illegal wildlife activity, contact a local Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer. If you wish to remain anonymous, call Operation Game Thief toll-free at (877) 265-6648.