Feeding Wintering Game Birds
Good or Bad?
Feeding wintering game birds in Idaho is unlikely to make a difference in the size of next fall's flocks.

Since substantial snows have fallen across Idaho, some residents have
approached Fish and Game about feeding game birds. Although the department generally has no objection to citizens feeding the birds on private land, Fish and Game does not spend hunting license dollars for winter game bird feeding.

Through decades of experience in Idaho and elsewhere, spending on winter game bird feeding has not been shown to have a measurable long-term effect on bird numbers. Starvation can happen during extended periods of deep snow and low temperatures, but it is not common and feeding does little to save birds under severe conditions. Game bird species are adapted to survive through a high rate of reproductivity. Where habitat is adequate, a relative few adult birds will produce large numbers of chicks.

People who care about game can make a real difference, however, by helping to make sure birds have places to live and year-round feed. Winter cover can be enhanced by planting shrubs and low growing trees in shelterbelts or riparian areas and by protecting shelterbelts and riparian areas with fencing. Food plots near enough to good winter cover can be a major advantage to survival.

Fish and Game is seeking opportunities to develop and cost share on projects that provide pheasant and quail habitat and food on private and public lands through the Habitat Improvement Program (HIP). This is the most effective use of limited department dollars to enhance quail and pheasant numbers. The department does not sanction non-emergency feeding of wild turkeys. Unneeded feeding has the effect of taming local populations of turkeys and increasing the probability of nuisance complaints, disease, predation, damage to existing habitat and concentrating turkeys on private lands where hunting may not be allowed.

Food plots for turkeys can serve as an alternative to direct feeding on private land and bales of oat hay can provide another source of food for them. Cracked corn provided by the Boise and Nampa chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation is provided to some landowners who help feed turkeys in areas of deep snow.

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