Protect your hay and feed – or it’s an easy meal for deer and elk

Animals like this white-tailed deer are looking for easy meals come winter. Photo credit: David Restivo.

Animals like this white-tailed deer are looking for easy meals come winter. Photo credit: David Restivo.

Looking at frozen farmers’ fields probably doesn’t make you hungry. But to animals in many parts of the province, they’re basically an all-you-can-eat buffet – and that’s a problem.

Foraging ain’t easy

Ungulates – hooved animals like deer, elk, and moose –continue to forage throughout the winter. During these harsh months, it’s more important than ever that these animals keep up their energy reserves.

At the same time, extremely cold temperatures and deep snow can make it difficult to get to the plants that they usually eat – which means that they’re looking for easy meals in other places. If they find hay and feed stored on fields, they can greatly deplete or even destroy the supply.

Shutting down the deer and elk buffet

Here are 7 easy steps farmers can take to protect their feed and hay:

  • Move bales from the field to protected areas like feed yards or storage facilities.
  • Store your grain only in protective storage bins.
  • Before freeze-up, take the opportunity to place fencing around the sites where you will be stacking bales.
  • Stack bales two tiers high to help put them out of reach of animals.
  • Place bales of straw around feed stores as a protective barrier.
  • Monitor your stored feed and hay often, to discourage animals from hanging around.
  • If you find damage to your feed stores, contact your local Fish and Wildlife office – early detection helps prevent extensive damage. Compensation for damaged stores may be available through the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation.

Hunting can help

If you’re an agricultural landholder, encouraging hunters to access your land when big game seasons are open can help keep the elk and deer populations manageable and discourage them from lingering in the area. You can get in touch with hunters who have tags for problem animals in your area on the Alberta Outdoorsmen and Alberta Sportsmen Forums, or by using our My Wild Alberta Facebook page

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