3 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT feeding wildlife in winter

Wildlife developed natural adaptations to make it through a difficult winter. North Dakota Game and Fish Department says it is better to not feed wildlife.

1 - When temperatures drop and snow falls, people want to feed deer and other wildlife. North Dakota Game and Fish discourages feeding wildlife because of the potential for harm. If you really want to help wildlife, instead of feeding them, take equipment out to clear the fields they generally frequent this time of year to make it easier for them to feed on their natural browse. If you do start feeding wildlife, it is just as dangerous to stop abruptly as it is to give them feed like corn an apples, which are not part of their natural foods.

2 - Deer developed adaptations that allow them to survive harsh winters without help from us. Natural adaptations include building fat and muscle during the summer growing season, migrating long distances, dispersing across the landscape to reduce concentrations, lowering metabolic rates during the winter season and restricting movements during severe winter conditions to conserve energy, Game and Fish said.

3 - If animals go into winter in good condition most are able to survive persistent deep snow, ice and cold temperatures. Even in well-functioning natural ecosystems some animals die during winter months, Game and Fish said. The winter season helps keep wildlife populations more in balance with available habitat. Fruit and grains are not part of a deer’s natural diet and can be extremely hard to digest. Their rumens need time to adjust to a high carbohydrate diet, and they can die from rumen acidosis when experiencing a rapid transition from normal forage to fruit or grain, Game and Fish said. This mismatch in gut microbes can result in animals that starve because they are unable to absorb the nutrients they need, they said. In addition, fruit and grains don’t have the right amounts and types of vitamins, minerals, and especially fiber that deer need to stay healthy, Game and Fish said. Feeding these alternative foods is similar to feeding your children nothing but candy bars, they said.

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