How can I help wild animals suffering from the drought?

Local News

(ABC4) – Utah’s drought has caused water restrictions to be implemented across the state.

It has prompted Utah Governor Spencer Cox to issue three executive orders, declare a state of emergency, and even urge Utahns to pray for much-needed rain.

But people are not the only ones who have been affected. According to the Division of Wildlife Resources, DWR, the drought may prompt animals to visit Utah neighborhoods in search of food and water.

What is the best way to avoid conflicts with these animals while also helping them out during this difficult time?

One of the main animals affected by the drought is deer. It is expected that limited food and water will reduce the number of fawns, result in lower deer population, and decrease antler growth for buck deer.

Here are things the division recommends doing to keep deer out of your yard:

  • Build an eight-foot tall fence around your garden.
  • Install a motion-activated sprinkler.
  • Plant unappetizing (to deer) vegetation around your garden’s perimeter

Click on the links to learn how to avoid conflicts with bear, moose, and bobcats.

Photos courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

On the other hand, some may want to feed deer and other animals affected by the drought.

How can I help wildlife during the drought?

Though it may be tempting, it is best to avoid feeding or providing water for animals during a drought, DWR says. This can create unsafe situations for both animals and people.

“The best way you can help wildlife is by letting animals stay wild,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Wildlife Section Chief Justin Shannon said.

“Don’t approach them, and don’t try to feed them. These animals have evolved to be able to survive numerous weather conditions and to make it on their own. Often people’s good intentions wind up doing more harm than good for the wildlife. Not to mention, it can be really dangerous when deer, moose or bears become habituated and lose their fear of people,” she adds.

But what about leaving food out for common neighborhood creatures, like squirrel or birds?

“Bird feeders can actually attract bears, and we recommend taking them down at night. Pet food can also attract bears as a potential food source, so that should be brought inside at night as well,” DWR Public Information Officer Faith Heaton Jolley, says.

Something else people can do to help is to contact the DWR office if you come across an animal that is sick, injured, or acting aggressively. Only report a bear if it is acting aggressively, getting into trash or fruit trees, causing damage, or wandering in low elevation areas, within city limits, or in a highly-populated area, DWR says.

Bears spotted in residential areas in the foothills or canyons don’t need to be reported.

What is DWR doing to help animals this drought season?

This year, DWR has made changes to fishing regulations to allow people to catch more fish at waterbodies heavily affected by the drought where fish are more likely to die from low water levels and hot temperatures.

The division is also stocking fish in more drought-resistant waterbodies where they are more likely to survive. DWR is not limiting or increasing the number of fishing licenses available. Those are always unlimited, Jolley says.

However, the division will be issuing fewer general-season deer permits this year, since the population currently falls below the management plan’s objective amount.

“We’ve had a few drought years in Utah recently, which has a significant impact on the survival rates of deer,” DWR Big Game Coordinator Covy Jones says.

“In Utah, we have the longest range-trend study in the Western U.S., and we’ve seen that having suitable habitat is crucial for maintaining or growing wildlife populations. And drought conditions can really negatively impact that habitat, which in turn affects our wildlife species.”

DWR will also take the following measures:

Visit wildlife.utah.gov for more information on how the drought is affecting the state’s wildlife.

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