Chief Game Warden Pablo Espinoza would like to remind folks that the supplemental feeding of game animals is illegal under Montana code (MCA 87-6-216) on private and state land on the Flathead Reservation, as well as off the reservation.
The law specifically prohibits the feeding of ungulates—(deer, elk, moose, and), mountain lions and bears. The recreational feeding of birds (song birds, turkeys, pheasants, etc) can also be unlawful if it attracts ungulates or bears. Supplemental food includes grain, processed feed, hay, and other foods that may act as attractants to wildlife.
Espinoza noted that residents sometimes claim to be feeding turkeys, but this feeding can also attract other species. For example, if deer are drawn to feeding sites, they can attract mountain lions and pose a safety threat to neighbors. Espinoza added that several examples of unlawful feeding of wildlife have been turned in recently in the Polson and Ronan areas.
“Recent incidents in the Valley are the worst I’ve seen in my short tenure as a Warden,” said Brandon Couture, Conservation Program Investigator. “Folks have had supplemental feed sources delivered to their residences specifically for the deer, and quite often the landowner does not even own livestock. In one instance over 30 deer and four turkeys were feeding on the pile when I arrived.” reported Couture. Several other similar incidents have also been reported in the Ronan area. A lot of turkeys are also being fed which is attracting deer, and naturally with the deer in residential area this brings mountain lions. “Initially I try to educate people on the law, and give them a chance to clean up the attractants and stop the feeding. If the feeding does not stop I issue a citation”, said Couture.
Officials with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) note that feeding wildlife is counter to all tribal efforts to reduce wildlife losses and minimize potential human wildlife conflicts.