With more than 35 inches of snow on the ground, along with bitter cold temperatures, conditions are threatening the survival of mule deer in Utah’s Bear Lake Valley.
Help for the deer is on is way. On January 12, Utah Department of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) Director Greg Sheehan contacted Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Utah Regional Director Bill Christensen and asked the RMEF to help deliver 12 tons of specially formulated deer pellets developed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“Although the weather has been severe across parts of Utah this winter, the Bear Lake area is the only location where emergency feeding needs to happen right now. We’re prepared to feed deer in other locations, though, if the need arises. These deer are exhausted, confused and without options. They need help,” said Sheehan.
RMEF is opposed to supplemental feeding, except in time of emergencies and when asked for help by the state wildlife agency, but the RMEF was quick to respond to the call for help.
On January 13, after being contacted by Sheehan, Christensen and Regional Chair Ron Camp accompanied Sheehan, biologists and members of other hunting conservation groups to Garden City where they met with Travis Hobbs, a local contractor.
“Travis has really taken the lead and has been a key leader is watching the deer and keeping the local biologists up to speed, Christensen said. “He’s letting us store 12 tons of these pellets at his Garden City business.”
“He and his employees are donating their labor and heavy equipment to clear areas where we will feed. We couldn’t have responded this quickly without his leadership. Another local rancher and RMEF member, Clint Kearl, has also plowed areas around his ranch and close to the lake, clearing areas to feed deer. These sportsmen deserve our thanks for helping monitor, spending their time and using their equipment to help the deer,” said Camp.
It’s important to note that people shouldn’t feed deer or other wildlife unless they work with their state wildlife agency. Mule deer can die with a belly full of hay in the winter as their digestive system changes in the winter to accommodate the dry and woody winter range browse. The decision to feed deer in the Bear Lake Valley was made following guidelines in the UDWR’s Emergency Winter Big Game Feeding policy.
Elk and moose in the area are doing okay as they can reach higher and dig deeper for a meal.
Camp and Christensen helped distribute the first bag of feed and the RMEF committed $10,000 to add to matching funds committed by other hunting conservation groups.
“A big thanks goes out to our Utah RMEF members who work hard to raise funds to benefit elk and other wildlife, including these mule deer that are in trouble,” said Christensen.
“This is where the tire hits the road. RMEF members make good things happen!’ added Camp.