Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - It can be so heartbreaking when you see deer digging through the snow banks to find what little vegetation there might be to eat, that it’s tempting to throw out some bread or other food for the deer, however, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Missoula Police Department both warn that feeding urban wildlife is illegal.

It's Tempting, but DON'T feed the Urban Deer in Missoula

KGVO News spoke to FWP Education and Program Manager Vivaca Crowser about the issue of feeding wild urban deer.

“We have a lot of deer in and around Missoula,” began Crowser. “We have mule deer and white tail deer depending on what part of town you're in or what day it is, and certainly this time of year when we have had the snow covering the grass for several months now it is really tempting to think we need to help take care of the deer. However, actually the best thing we can do to take care of the deer is to not feed them, and keep them on their natural food sources. They're amazingly resilient and adaptable. They will find food in almost every case and feeding them will cause issues.”

Crowser said feeding the deer could actually be harmful for the deer, as well as the danger that feeding the deer might bring predators into residential neighborhoods.

Feeding them Makes them Dependent on Humans

“It can actually get them conditioned to unnatural food sources which make it hard to go back to their natural foods,” she said. “So, we don't want that for the deer, and also things that are already dangerous like the amount of deer that we have crossing our roads can get even worse when they get concentrated in areas searching for that that food that we're putting out, and that can be a human safety concern. And then of course, having more deer in particular parts of town means that we could have more predators like mountain lions following them.”

Crowser said it’s also important to know that the deer are hardy animals, and will usually survive the winter.

"It's really hard to see animals out there right now, and we kind of put ourselves in their position and think, 'Gosh, it's cold and there's not a lot of food' and sometimes we see animals that aren't looking in great condition. But in most of those cases, they're going to pull through they're going to find enough food and then come springtime, they're going to gain that weight back and get healthier again. So it's, it's really just a natural part of the process in most cases, and the risk of feeding them outweighs the benefits."

So Many Deer in Residential Neighborhoods Forces Drivers to Slow Down

Crowser said having so many deer in residential areas forces drivers to slow down to avoid striking them.

“With the snow on the ground that we've had here so frequently at the late fall and early winter time this year, we need to slow down and give ourselves extra space because you're going to have to brake for at least one deer almost every day somewhere in Missoula. And so, keeping that in mind, making sure you slow down and time and time again, when you see a deer you're going to see another one close behind, so before you pick your speed back up a little bit make sure you scan both sides of the road because oftentimes there are one or two more that are going to follow.”

Missoula is Home to Thousands of Urban Deer because That's Where the Food Is

KGVO News also spoke to FWP wildlife expert Jamie Jonkel, who estimated that there are between 35 and 40 mule deer and one to two thousand white tail deer in Missoula residential areas.

Jonkel said as many as 10 deer are struck by vehicles every day in the Missoula area necessitating response by FWP or law enforcement agencies to euthanize and remove them.

Yellowstone National Park Rebuilds After Historic Flooding

After catastrophic flooding damaged portions of Yellowstone National Park in June of 2022, major reconstruction was necessary to make the park passable again. The following are photos of the improvement projects at Old Gardiner Road and the Northeast Entrance Road. All photos are courtesy of the National Park Service, photographer Jacob W. Frank.

25 Mind-Blowing Photos of Devastating Flooding in Montana

20 Mind-Blowing Photos of Devastating Flooding in Montana

More From Newstalk KGVO 1290 AM & 98.3 FM