Big Game Winter Feeding updates

When winter brings wildlife out of the hills and into contact with people, we may ask when is it appropriate to feed big game animals. The desire to feed animals is natural, yet from past experience, Fish and Game knows it is a complicated decision.

Fish and Game looks to natural forage to sustain big game populations. But when emergency conditions exist, winter feeding becomes an option. Three main conditions that can trigger winter feeding are:

Private Property Damage

To prevent damage to private property such as damage to stored agricultural crops like haystacks

Public Safety Concern

To prevent significant human safety issues such as elk congregating near a busy highway

Excessively harsh winter conditions

To prevent excessive mortality that would affect recovery of the herd such as those conditions where a high percentage of the adult females would be expected to die

The agency’s policy and actions have evolved through decades of experience with winter feeding and is done with the best interest of Idaho’s big game populations.

After the devastating winters in the late 1990’s, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission developed a policy and process to guide the agency’s decisions to feed or not to feed big game animals.


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