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Try Not To Stress Wildlife At This Time Of Year

Late winter and early spring is often a difficult time for wildlife. After using fat reserves through most of the winter, along with trying to find what food is available, many animals are at their most vulnerable at this time of year. And as we’ve all experienced, the winter of 2022-23 has been a tough, long winter with heavy snow and cold temperatures late into the year.

That’s why Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, along with the Bureau of Land Management, are asking shed hunters and other recreationists to give wildlife their space until all the snow melts and the animals are less stressed.

Shed hunting – looking for antlers shed each year by male members of the deer family – has become increasingly popular and competitive in recent years. Shed hunting is a good way to get some fresh air and exercise and is encouraged as an activity. However, shed hunters, along with snowmobilers, skiers, and snowshoers should avoid areas where deer, elk and antelope are currently wintering. It is safest to admire these animals at a distance.

Like any activity, shed hunting requires permission of the landowner/agency and special rules may apply. For instance, the BLM is especially concerned that mule deer wintering areas, such as the Bitter Creek Wilderness Study Area in northern Valley County, are often targeted for shed hunting with snowmobiles. Snowmobiles are not permitted off-road in the Bitter Creek WSA, and folks who are violating this law will be fined.

Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge, which surrounds Fort Peck Reservoir and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, does not allow the removal of shed antlers.

Know the rules of public land agencies regarding winter recreation, and always ask permission on private land, including property that is in Block Management.

Feeding deer is illegal

Although it may be tempting with these tough winter conditions, a person may not knowingly provide supplemental feed attractants to game animals in a manner that results in an artificial concentration of game animals that may potentially contribute to the transmission of disease or that constitutes a threat to public safety.

Not only is it illegal, but feeding some animals can also render them dependent upon artificial food sources, and may lead to death due to imbalances in gut health.

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