Addressing the Decreasing Deer and Elk Populations

I’m hoping that FWP will look a little harder at enforcing laws related to feeding deer and elk

The article about Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ proposed changes in white-tailed deer hunting rules and regulations in my backyard caught my eye. I hunted during most of my life but age finally caught up with me. I live at the edge of some of the best white-tail deer and elk winter range around.

A decrease in population of both species here on the south side of the river has concerned me for the past several years. Buck and bull populations, and herd ratios, appear to be heading toward critical lows based on the numbers we now observe. The dwindling number of fawns and calves each spring concerns me. During the last decade the number of does and cows dropping their babies within a hundred yards of our house has dwindled dramatically. In my opinion, hunting regulations are only a part of the problem. There are two other problems I believe account for most of the change in numbers and ratios.

First is growing predation by wolves, bears and lions within their established territories. The second is the growing population of people moving into the area. Many have never lived around wild critters and tend to treat them like pets. Putting out salt blocks and “food” for wild critters has always been a problem as urban area subdivision creeps in. Unfortunately, it’s getting even worse.

It only takes a generation or two for young animals to forget how to forage on their own. When that happens, accompanied by a hard winter or two, they die. Not a pretty picture in real life but meaningless to those who never have to witness such things up close.

I’m hoping that FWP will look a little harder at enforcing laws related to feeding deer and elk and realize just how serious the problem has become. “Town” deer are hopeless. The feeding there can never stop. As for elk, have a look at the long-term history of the Jackson, Wyoming, herd that used to migrate south, out of Yellowstone for their winter range in southern Idaho. That was before tourism became more important than the elk.

But that’s just one man’s opinion. Thanks for listening.

Carl Haywood
Thompson Falls