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Idaho Fish and Game

Why private feeding sites are not the answer

Does and fawn winter feeding on afalfa hay

Why Fish and Game generally discourages private citizens from feeding big game.

  • It is difficult to obtain feed that will actually sustain wild game animals. For instance, deer will eat hay readily but can actually starve if that is the only feed they have.
  • Once an individual starts to feed a group of elk or deer, the animals must be fed until they are ready to move back to natural forage. Some private feeders may not be prepared to sustain the feeding once they’ve started.
  • Selecting good locations for feed sites can be tricky. Several bad situations have been created where private feeders lured animals too close to livestock and stored crop operations with severe results for the farmer or rancher.
  • Safety is another consideration. Some private feeding operations have been established too near roads increasing the chance of vehicle collisions.
  • Predators follow their prey.  It is common for winter feeding operations to attract large predators which could create problems in or near human environments.
  • Idaho State Department of Agriculture prohibits feeding of big game animals in several eastern Idaho counties to help reduce the spread of brucellosis to livestock

In 1999 Fish and Game produced a video to explore the challenges the agency and the public face with feeding wildlife in the winter.

In this section of Winter Feeding: A Wildlife Dilemma, follow one landowner’s experience with privately feeding a herd of elk in the winter.