Note: The following article is probably familiar to regular readers of this paper. Each year, especially in the fall and winter, the Rangers receive calls from residents reporting that a neighbor or friend is feeding deer. People feed deer because they think the animals are unable to survive on their own in harsh winter conditions or because they like to see the animals around their property. Regardless of the reason, feeding deer does much more harm than good. The Colorado Division of Wildlife is also very concerned about this problem because it hastens the spread of diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease. In the past few years new laws have been passed that prohibit placing salt licks on your property to attract deer or to be more careful in putting out feed for wild birds that may also attract deer or bears. The Rangers hope the problem can be resolved through educating residents about the negative effects of feeding deer since even the people who cause the problem do seem genuinely concerned for the deer. Law enforcement would be used as a last resort.
It is not uncommon, to see deer in proximity to housing development in the Valley of Ken-Caryl Ranch. It also may appear that our deer are concentrated into smaller areas. Deer will concentrate in certain areas for many reasons. Past experience has indicated that this phenomenon occurs, in many cases, when individuals begin feeding them. By feeding the deer, persons are breaking the law and it can actually harm deer and cause other problems, for example:
• Ken-Caryl Ranch is in prime deer habitat. Feeding will not prevent deer from damaging your ornamental plants. It usually results in greater damage to plants as well as those of your neighbors. For information about the use of non-preferred ornamental species, barriers, and repellents, you may contact the Ranger staff.
• Deer have a complex digestive system that is not adapted to large amounts of grain, bird seed, bread, or many types of hay. Feeding is often unhealthy for deer. Addiction to artificial feeds often results in deer that are in poor condition. Concentrating deer by feeding can also increase stress and hasten the spread of diseases.
• Deer are the primary prey of mountain lions. Concentrating deer by feeding can attract mountain lions well within private property. It may become necessary to kill these lions for public safety. Feeding also concentrates deer in areas where they are more likely to be chased by dogs or hit by cars.
Mammals are very intelligent and they quickly learn to associate people with food. As a homeowner you can help. If you know of any person feeding deer, please call the Ranger staff at 303-904-0249. We would like to have the opportunity to discuss this problem with any individuals engaged in this activity and stop this behavior for the benefit of our deer population and the community at large that enjoy seeing these animals acting more wild.
by KCRMA Open Space Manager Sean Warren