By Nikki Fredrikson
Special to the Pioneer
As the winter months continue and the snow cover builds public concern often grows for the wildlife in the region. While some will wonder if the animals, particularly the wild ungulates, are getting sufficient amount of food, the Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resources is asking the public to consider the risks before leaving feed out for the wildlife.
Fish and Wildlife section head for the Kootenay Boundary Region Holger Bohm said to the Pioneer that at this point in the winter there is no concern for the well-being of ungulates in the East Kootenay. Adding a feeding program would only be brought in if there were extreme conditions.
“There’s no feeding program led by government, as far as government goes we will not feed animals unless there are extreme, extreme conditions. As long as we have normal snow load, or slightly above normal snow load like we had last year, that’s all things animals can deal with, so we’re not really concerned,” said Mr. Bohm.
Mr. Bohm said that there are no feeding programs from the government planned for the region; he acknowledged that other entities may have something planned. The ministry’s concern surrounding wildlife feeding stems from scientific research showing negative effects on the animals. One of the effects mentioned in the Ministry’s press release included the effect on the animals digestive track.
“The problem is that their digestive track right now is adapted to deal with the “crappy” food that is out there right now. Winter food is not as great as summer food so if you just switch it to high protein hay and those high quality feeds their digestive system gets really upset,” said Mr. Bohm.
Mr. Bohm compared supplemental winter feeding to living off bread and water for a month. Then suddenly eating two steaks and to imagine what that would do to your guts.
“There’s a certain amount of habitat needed per animal to feed itself and we are definitely in the green zone there. So there’s enough habitat out there as far as quantity goes at this point to feed all the animals for the winter,” said Mr. Bohm.
The Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resources is urging the public not to engage in any supplemental feedings of hoofed mammals and include elk, moose, deer, and sheep. But if you feel you have to feed the animals the ministry asks you to consider the risk you’re subjecting the animals to.