The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is urging the public not to feed wildlife during the winter months as they are sometimes tempted to do. State biologists explain that private feeding of wildlife can cause serious problems. Each year there are many examples of how a well-meaning gesture to “help” wildlife actually leads to their demise.
Big game animals, such as deer and moose will readily eat hay, but the micro-organisms in their stomachs that aid in digestion are adapted to breakdown vegetation the animal naturally consumes during winter months, primarily woody plants. This means it takes a lot longer to digest hay, which is not normally available to them during the winter.
That’s why these animals can often starve to death despite having a stomach full of hay, bird seed, fruit, grain or pellets. Disease is another consideration. Artificial feeding of wildlife generally concentrates the animals in a small area creating conditions that are ripe for diseases and parasites to be readily spread from one animal to the next, and throughout a whole herd.