We are well into the new year and for many it is easy to feel like winter and her sting of cold might be nearing an end. However, this is far from a reality in the Rockies. Late-winter and early-spring often bring the toughest storms and that is exactly what we don’t want to see for our big game herds. Currently IDFG is implementing feeding plans for quite a few areas in the SE portion of the state. Yet again, we see heavy snowfall and tough conditions for deer and elk. This area’s deer took a big hit just a handful of years back and are still trying to recover, and from what I hear there’s more snow and cold temperatures in the near future. Winter conditions are expected to be so severe that it could be the worst winter kill in decades. I sure hope we don’t see another event like that, but the writing is on the wall.
Looking at the snowpack in these areas it is easy to see that conditions are less than ideal and there are legitimate concerns for the deer and even the elk there. Keep in mind, IDFG’s policy on winter feeding is a more “hands off” approach. They don’t want animals to become dependent, nor susceptible to outside issues such as communal disease, vehicle collisions, harassment from people, etc. Thus, when we see feed sites going up left and right, it brings concern.
This is a reminder for all of us how sensitive big game populations are, especially during winter. It never hurts to keep tabs on these situations before you apply either. Events like this can be very localized as well, so don’t assume your hunting spot isn’t affected just because the area in general didn’t see much impact. Also, when we have special conditions such as heavy snows that cause hardship on the herds, let’s be good stewards and keep a distance when we recreate, skiing, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, shed hunting, etc. Educate those around you and let’s do our part to ease the pressure.