VICTORIA — As the snow builds up across British Columbia, the government is warning people to resist the urge to feed hungry moose, elk and deer.
The Ministry of Natural Resources says research has shown that a sudden shift in the diets of the animals can have severe negative consequences.
Extreme winter conditions can cause a higher death rate among the animals, especially when there isn't enough foragable food or habitat available to them.
But the ministry says shifting from winter foraging to supplemental food sources such as hay or grain provided by humans can lead the animals to become sick and even die.
It says feeding the animals can also increase rates of human-wildlife conflicts, cause higher risk of disease transmission, attract predators and damage habitat.
Those considering feeding the animals are urged to weigh the risks before implementing a program, and the ministry says the best way to help moose and deer survive is to protect their habitat year-round.
"Animals that enter the winter in good condition, due to abundant summer and autumn forage, are more likely to survive a severe winter," says a statement from the ministry.
"Even in well-functioning ecosystems, some animals die during winter. This is natural and keeps ungulate populations in balance with their available habitat."