It may seem like you're helping out, but the Wyoming Game & Fish says feeding deer may be doing more harm than good. The fact is, they're wild animals, and keeping them wild is best practice to avoid neighborhood-wide conflict.

Say a neighbor starts leaving food on their property all winter. Wintering deer start to line up for the buffet. Pretty soon there are even more of them. And with that come the coyotes and cougars, putting household pets and even humans at risk. It also increases the risk of vehicle collisions.

Furthermore, deer have adapted to digest dry, low-nutrient forage in the winter. Adding rich, unnatural food into their diet can have unintended consequences like bloating and death.

The Idaho Fish and Game are starting to address the issue of social media impacts. "It's a sad reality, but staging wildlife photos and videos is becoming more and more of an online trend, and is a selfish and surefire way to jeopardize wildlife health. There is a subgenere of social media where careless people intentionally lure in wildlife with food such as apples or carrots and take a selfie with the critter while it munches. Photos and videos can go viral, inflating a person's ego enough to do it again for even more social media engagement."

This kind of behavior ultimately spells trouble for the wild animals. Deer are not pets.

“We understand the compassion that those who feed deer feel,” says Doug Brimeyer, the Game and Fish deputy wildlife division chief. “But feeding unnatural foods is not what is best for them and can lead to their death or secondary harmful effects.”

Here are some things you can do to help wildlife this winter:

  • Pick up your hammocks, soccer nets and tomato cages, and put holiday lights out of reach.
  • Keep your pets confined and/or on a leash and do not allow pets to chase wildlife.
  • Keep your distance and give wildlife plenty of room.
  • Slow down on roadways for migrating wildlife, especially at dawn and dusk. Plan for added time in your travels.
  • If you have fences, make them wildlife-friendly and open gates wherever possible for easier wildlife movement.

Bighorn Sheep Out & About

Gallery Credit: Kolby Fedore, TSM

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Gallery Credit: Kolby Fedore, Townsquare Media

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