Heavy early winter snowfall in Idaho's Garden Valley area has prompted Fish and Game to begin preparing for big game feeding efforts in the area. "Snow conditions are forcing mule deer and elk to the valley floor," Landowner-Sportsman Coordinator John Nagel said. "It's shaping up to be a tough winter and we want to be ready to feed when conditions necessitate it."
A number of steps have already been taken. Fish and Game personnel, local sportsmen and the Southwest Region Winter Feeding Advisory Committee have toured the Garden Valley area to check snow conditions and determine feeding locations. "We've identified more than two dozen feed sites between Banks and Lowman and have made arrangements to have those sites plowed free of snow," Nagel noted. "The pelleted feed has been ordered and feed troughs are being transported to the area." In addition, Department personnel are monitoring weather conditions in the valley on a daily basis in order to respond in a timely manner should conditions change.
When to begin the feeding program has been a major point of contention in the past. "We always hear a wide range of opinions regarding when to start the feeding effort," Nagel commented. "To reduce a portion of this disagreement, feeding program criteria were developed in 1993 and discussed with Garden Valley residents and concerned sportsmen." Animal condition, snow depth, temperature extremes, the extent of deer and elk migration and depredation problems are the primary factors influencing the decision to begin any feeding program. "We're continually monitoring all these factors," Nagel said.
Funding for winter feeding programs comes largely from a surcharge on Idaho elk, deer and antelope tags. Private donations also help pay the bill that at times can be hefty. For example, in Southwest Idaho alone, Fish and Game spent nearly $180,000 to feed deer and elk during the winter of 1992-1993.