SUBLETTE COUNTY, Wyo. — Another mule deer in Pinedale tested positive for disease — a problem that could be blamed on a residential population of deer receiving food rewards.
A mule deer buck recently tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a residential area near Pinedale. It is believed to be one of several in the local town deer population. It marks the second confirmed case of CWD in mule deer within deer hunt area 139. A doe mule deer found dead near the airport in February 2017 also tested positive.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department reminds residents to avoid feeding wildlife. While feeding deer and other wildlife during winter might seem like a good idea, feeding can cause serious problems for these animals.
The perils of feeding:
- Increases the spread of diseases and parasites. Feeding wildlife can artificially congregate groups of deer and other species at feeding sites, creating conditions ripe for the spread of diseases and parasites. For example, once CWD is in the wildlife population, feeding can act to increase concentrations of prions, the infectious agent, in the environment. Prions remain in the soil for decades, forming disease “hot spots” which put deer, elk or moose returning to those locations at risk. Once infected, animals do not recover.
- Promotes starvation and can bring about numerous conflict situations. Big game animals, such as deer and moose will readily eat hay or other feeds when offered, but the micro-organisms in their stomachs that aid in digestion are specialized to breakdown vegetation the animal would naturally consume during winter months, primarily woody plants. This means it takes a lot longer to digest other foods and is why these animals can often starve to death despite having a stomach full of hay, birdseed, fruit, grain or pellets. Feeding wildlife can also lead to a higher risk of damage to private property, vehicle collisions, presence of predators and dangerous human-wildlife encounters.
Wyoming residents who feed wildlife during winter certainly have good intentions, but it is important to remember the unintended consequences and resist the urge to try to “help” wildlife by feeding them.
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