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Harsh weather impacts on wintering wildlife

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - The long harsh winter continues to sweep through East Idaho and has been especially difficult for big game animals. Now, the department of Fish and Game is asking residents to recreate responsibly and avoid wintering wildlife.

“We know from previous experience that after a bad winter such as this one, big game animals are extremely susceptible to disturbance and many will not make it if they run out of energy reserves over the next month,” Upper Snake Region Regional Supervisor Matt Pieron said. “This is the unfortunate reality of a harsh winter, and we are asking people to please do their part by giving these animals plenty of space and even delaying recreational activities to avoid further stressing wildlife.”

How can you help?

  • Give wildlife plenty of space.

"Just give them some space and try not to push them," says IDFG Regional Communications Manager James Brower. "Every calorie that they use running away from you, is a calorie that may make the difference between them making it through the winter and them not."

  • Control your pets and four legged companions.
  • Consider delaying your trip into big game areas.

“We realize that asking people to postpone their trips or alter their behavior is a big ask,” Pieron said. “This winter has been brutal, and these animals will benefit from any relief we can provide them.”   

What is fish and game doing in response?

In response to the harsh weather, Fish and Game will keep some wildlife management areas closed until the situation improves.

Those areas include; the Portneuf, Georgetown, and Montpelier Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in the Southeast Region, and the Tex Creek and Market Lake WMAs in the Upper Snake Region.

Fish and Game has also organized winter feeding station for Elk and Mule Deer. This is often used as a last resort and only used as necessary to protect livestock, public safety or property. Even with those feeding sites, large numbers of big game animals have already succumbed to starvation or winter conditions.

"Even at this time of year, if mule deer are able to get food and find some nutrition..." says Brower. "...They have to cultivate particular gut bacteria to be able to digest that. So even in April, we get animals that are are finding food, but they may still tip over of starvation because they're not able to digest it and extract the nutrients that they need."

Brower says we won't know the exact impact on the deer and elk populations, or impacts this year's hunting season, until late April.

For maps of what Wildlife Management Areas are closed visit the Fish and Game website

Article Topic Follows: Idaho

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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.


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