Feeding deer—long known to be detrimental to the animals and dangerous to the public—could now bring criminal charges against those who break a revised law that prohibits the practice in Montana.
The revised state law, passed as Senate Bill 202 by the 2009 Montana Legislature, adds ungulates—deer, elk, moose, and antelope—and mountain lions to the list of animals that cannot be attracted to an area with any kind of food.
Once limited only to bears, the revised law is aimed primarily at feeding to purposely attract certain wildlife to a particular area with things like grain, seeds and salt licks, but also includes negligently failing to properly store supplemental attractants, including garbage.
"Feeding deer and other wildlife is a growing threat to public safety that can draw in predators like mountain lions to residential areas," said Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim. "The law's revisions seek to eliminate the use of food and garbage to habitually attract deer and other big game to an area, which can create artificial concentrations of animals and contribute to the transmission of wildlife diseases."
Offenders could be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and six month in jail. The penalty also could include the loss of hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for a year or more.
A resident of Clinton was recently cited under the law for using corn to attract deer to an area. FWP game wardens, who noted that the feeding also drew in a grizzly bear, confiscated more than two tons of corn from the property.
The law does not apply to normal feeding of livestock, backyard gardens, most recreational bird feeding, or to commercial processing of garbage. It does, however, apply to those who continue to feed birds after receiving a warning by FWP that the feeding is unlawfully attracting big game and other wildlife.