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Artificial Feeding of Wildlife is against the law

Fish & Wildlife - Region 7

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Winter conditions bring snow and cold and wind that chills us to the bone. Often we feel sympathy for wildlife under these conditions and react by providing an artificial source of food. The intent is to help the animals through a difficult and demanding period but often that is not the end result and we may cause injury and even death to those we are attempting to help.

Feeding of wildlife places the animals at risk and puts them on a possible collision course with humans. The problem of feeding wildlife has become such an issue across the state that the 2009 Montana Legislature revised the state law (MCA 87-3-130) governing the feeding of wildlife to specifically prohibit the feeding of ungulates-deer, elk, moose, and antelope-and mountain lions. FWP Warden Captain Mike Moore noted, “Most people’s intentions are good, but it is against the law to feed most wildlife and probably not the best thing for the wildlife in the long run.” He also reminds people that recreational feeding of birds (song birds, turkeys, pheasants, etc) can also be unlawful if it attracts ungulates (deer, antelope, elk).

Facts About Feeding Wildlife:

  • Supplemental feeding encourages wildlife to become dependent on food sources that are not part of their natural diets.
  • Young animals that are taught to depend on humans sometimes never develop normal foraging behavior, and could starve if the artificial food sources are removed or more likely become nuisances and come in conflict with humans.
  • Wildlife lose their fear of humans and learn that they can boldly forage for artificial food, causing possible risks to human safety.
  • Wild animals being fed by humans may congregate in unnaturally high numbers, and this is the perfect opportunity for disease to spread.
  • Feeding wildlife, especially prey species such as deer, squirrels and rabbits, often causes a domino or food chain effect. Example: Increase deer numbers in your yard and you may be inviting a mountain lion for a free meal.

Offenders could be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000, six months in jail and you could lose your privileges to hunt, fish or trap. The law does not apply to normal feeding of livestock, backyard gardens or to commercial processing of garbage.