ENVIRONMENT

Emergency feeding will help deer survive this year’s Utah winter

Jan 25, 2023, 6:05 PM | Updated: 6:36 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A heavy snow year is making it tough for some wildlife to find food in Utah. It’s especially important following what was a very dry summer last year.

The daily feeding looked different this month for hungry deer in a remote part of Rich County.

Dakota Pray is just one of many people who have helped the deer find food, even if it had to be dumped out of a bag.

“Now you can go out and feed and within minutes the deer are already down onto the feed trying to get some food,” she explained.

It didn’t take the deer long to close in on some of that food as Pray and others with her backed away. They were in an area where the deer would normally feed on their own but the deep snow made it a difficult area to access.

“This is normally one of the open hillsides that usually melts off each storm,” Pray said.

The long-lasting cold and deep snow are making it tough for some of the animals to survive otherwise.

Pray said, “So they kind of go hand in hand. If we have a really dry summer and then a really bad winter, the deer really struggle just because they’re, they haven’t had the chance to build up body fat.”

The officers and volunteers will continue feeding until sometime in the spring when the slopes start to melt off and the deer will better be able to access their normal food.

The last time the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources had to organize an emergency feed like this was in 2017. Right now, volunteers are taking care of most of the efforts in parts of Rich and Summit counties. Not just anyone is allowed to help.

“The problem with the general public feeding deer is they’re usually not being fed the correct stuff,” Pray explained. “Deer have really sensitive digestive systems. People might go buy the wrong stuff and it will really be too rich for them and could end up killing them.”

Feeding the deer out in the wild where they’re used to eating helps keep them safe. Pray said, “Just because the areas they may be feeding may be in towns where they may be a greater threat to getting hit by cars.”

Even though these feedings give officers and volunteers a unique chance to work with the wildlife, this is not ideal.

Pray said, “I wish we didn’t have to. Ideally, we’d have an easier winter and  have the deer survive much better than they will this year.”

 

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Emergency feeding will help deer survive this year’s Utah winter