Winter mortality is a fact of life — it’s worse in some winters than in others and its related to habitat. Winter feeding has no biological impact because it reaches only a tiny fraction of the populations, what about the animals — game and nongame — that we don’t see? It’s time we admitted that winter feeding is done to save people from having to watch big game animals die, often in places where humans have taken over and transformed historical winter range. The animals go where they’re supposed to go; we have to accept responsibility for destroying their winter range and take action to address that. If we really want to minimize winter mortality, we should plow that winter feeding money into habitat acquisition and restoration — on private land if necessary. We can’t turn everything back into native habitat, but we can do something. Landowners could set aside some land for native plants — we can start by replacing deadly yew trees with sage and bitterbrush. Native landscaping has long-term and widespread benefits — it benefits all wildlife (IDFG mission), conserves water, and reduces the use of pesticides and herbicides. Go native.
David A. Cannamela, Boise