Feeding Wildlife Not Only Wrong, It's Illegal

For years now, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has been telling the public to not feed wildlife. While there are many reasons why you should never feed wildlife, NDOW would like to point out the newest addition to the list…feeding big game mammals is now against the law.

With the passage of Senate Bill 371 a person can now be fined up to $500 for feeding any big game animal without written authorization from NDOW. Nevada Revised Statute 501.382 includes specific exemptions for accepted agricultural, livestock, planting, or events where food is served or consumed.

"This has been a growing problem. With people feeding deer that come down during the winter or leaving out food for bears up in the Tahoe area. Well meaning people who do not understand they are doing more harm than good," said Cody Schroeder, statewide mule deer biologist for NDOW. "With this new law, feeding any big game animal is now a fineable offense. We hope this will help hit home how serious a problem we think this is."

NDOW points to a long list of reasons for not feeding wildlife. Feeding wild animals makes them dependent and can cause them to lose their natural fear of humans. It can be potentially dangerous and place you at a greater risk of being injured by the very animals you are trying to help. The feeding of any wildlife may inadvertently attract unwanted animals, which then attract other animals to prey on them. Bird seed and hummingbird feeders are known to attract bears. The list goes on and on and all of it points to the fact that feeding wildlife is just a bad idea.

The new statute (NRS 501.382) makes it illegal to intentionally feed any big game animal. In Nevada, a big game animal is a pronghorn antelope, black bear, mule deer, mountain goat, mountain lion, elk or bighorn sheep. A first offense is a written warning. The second offense is fine of no more than $250, while the third or subsequent offenses will be a fine of not more than $500.

"Intentionally feed" means to provide or otherwise make available any salt, grain, meat or other form of nourishment with the intent to attract or feed a big game animal. If you see anyone feeding a big game animal, you can report them by calling Operation Game Thief at 1-800-992-3030.

"We understand that when you see an animal that looks hungry, a person’s first instinct is to feed that animal. We just want the public to understand that feeding a wild animal is often unhealthy for the animal and it takes away their fear of people," said Schroeder. "The best thing people can do to protect Nevada’s wildlife during the winter is to protect the winter habitat that shelters and feeds them. Get involved and attend your local city and county planning meetings to help protect remaining mule deer habitats and migration routes.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) protects, restores and manages fish and wildlife, and promotes fishing, hunting, and boating safety. NDOW’s wildlife and habitat conservation efforts are primarily funded by sportsmen’s license and conservation fees and a federal surcharge on hunting and fishing gear. Support wildlife and habitat conservation in Nevada by purchasing a hunting, fishing or combination license. Find us on Facebook, Twitter or visit us at www.ndow.org.