Traveling in the rural parts of the Redwood area, one has likely observed wildlife, many times in large groups, walking the fields and open areas in search of food. It is no secret that those animals, such as deer and pheasants, have had that search made much more difficult in February with the deluge of snow that has come to the region.
The initial response by some may be to find a way to provide food to those animals, but Jeff Zajac, a wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is encouraging the public not to do that.
According to Zajac, even though this time of the year can be hard on those animals this winter season has been relatively mild until recently, adding during those more mild months the animals were able to find their share of food to keep them going.
In fact, added Zajac, those animals can survive for some time without food. Yes, he said, those animals will be hungry and will be looking for food, but it is not a good idea to provide food for them, especially in areas close to roadways. That, he said, is how animals end up getting killed.
Zajac said it is especially important not to feed deer, because of the appearance of diseases, such as chronic wasting disease (CWD). Zajac said the more deer are together in areas where food exists the greater the chance that diseases like CWD will spread.
According to the DNR, feeding wildlife can make wild animals less fearful of humans, may delay winter migration and can make certain areas subject to population increases above what the natural habitat can support.
“The animals will not starve, but they will continue moving until they find food,” said Zajac.
That, he said, should be of concern for livestock producers, adding those deer may help themselves to the food that has been set out for their livestock. It is important, he added, to keep an eye out for those signs that deer have been feeding on hay piles.
In fact, there are certain areas in the state where feeding deer is banned, an area of northern Renville County is part of that prohibition list.
What is of bigger concern for Zajac is the loss of cover for these animals, adding the more snow that falls and the more the wind blows the greater the likelihood that the places where these animals find protection are being lost Zajac said he believes that could lead to a much higher rate of loss than starvation.
The issues wildlife face in winter, especially in a year like this one, are not going to go away any time soon, said Zajac, adding it will take significant melting of the snow to help provide relief. However, if that snow melt happens too soon the flooding that could ensure creates another level of challenges for wildlife.
To learn more about these issues facing wildlife, visit the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.