A sign in Grand Teton National Park warns of the risks of feeding a fox. Photo: Nick Sulzer // Buckrail

JACKSON, Wyo. — As Wyoming residents live in such close proximity to wildlife, so comes the responsibility of learning how to properly coexist with them.

Part of this responsibility includes resisting the urge to “help” wildlife through the winter by feeding them.

A recent video shared with Buckrail shows a man feeding a chocolate cookie to a mule deer in Jackson. Private feeding of wildlife as shown in this video can cause serious problems and is against the law.

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Although it may seem like a well-meaning gesture to “help” wildlife, it can actually lead to their demise.

Big game animals, such as deer and moose will readily eat food given to them, but the micro-organisms in their stomachs that aid in digestion are adapted to break down vegetation the animal naturally consumes during winter months, primarily woody plants.

Disease is also another consideration. Artificial feeding of wildlife generally concentrates the animals in a small area. These conditions are ripe for diseases and parasites to be readily spread from one animal to the next and throughout a whole herd. If the animals do not die on their own, Wyoming Game and Fish field personnel are often called to respond to sick animals that have to be put down anyway.

“Feeding by private citizens often takes place in developed areas, which generally draws the animals into conflict situations. The animals are continually crossing roads where they are hit by vehicles or chased and sometimes killed, by homeowners’ dogs. Just being in close proximity to humans generally elevates the stress on these animals.”

Wyoming Game and Fish Department

On the other hand, if an animal becomes habituated to human contact, it may lead to human injury. People and often children are fooled into thinking an animal is tame and may try to approach it. These wild animals may unexpectedly strike out in self-defense or defense of its young.

In the Town of Jackson, Ordinance 1322 prohibits feeding the intentional or unintentional feeding of wildlife. A similar code applies to all of Teton County.

Wild animals are generally very habitual. Once fed, they will often return the following year with their offspring and others and will soon overwhelm the hobby feeder. Wyoming Game and Fish Department asks the public to never feed wildlife for not only their well-being but for the safety of the public as well.

Editor’s Note: The video featured in this story was reported to wildlife officials with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.