STATE—The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) requests residents refrain from feeding deer, bears and other wildlife on their property as it may cause disease and other issues to spread among the congregated population.

PGC states, “Artificially congregating wildlife through feeding alters natural foraging behavior causing changes in movement and distribution. The artificial competition from crowding at feed sites leads to increased fighting and injury.”

After conferring with an Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from hunting and outdoors clubs, PGC is considering expanding the existing ban on feeding bear and elk to include deer, turkey and all big game species.

The limited feeding of birds would still be acceptable.

The Game Commission will be hosting a series of upcoming open houses throughout Pennsylvania where residents can learn more about PGC's concerns and offer comments in response to this suggestion.

The Northeast Regional Office (3917 Memorial Highway, Dallas, PA 18612) open house is scheduled for August 24 from 6-8 p.m.

Of primary concern for PGC are Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer and mange in bear populations as a result of animal density increasing around feeding locations.

PGC states, “Both diseases were either absent or much less likely to be found a decade ago and both diseases are now escalating in Pennsylvania. Wildlife feeding brings animals into closer contact with one another and for longer periods of time than typical. Increased contact increases exposure.”

Infected deer can contaminate the food source they eat from and surrounding area in which they urinate and defecate, leading healthy deer to likewise contract the disease.

In the case of bear mange, the disease spreads when a bear rubs against a surface containing the mites which cause it.

Both CWD is always fatal in deer and elk populations and mange is a common cause of mortality in bears, states PGC.

Smaller animals such as squirrels, raccoons, opossums, rodents, skunks and foxes may also be attracted to feeding locations, carrying with them the potential to transmit diseases such as rabies, canine distemper, parvovirus, leptospirosis, Baylisascaris and ascarid roundworms, avian pox and trichomoniasis.

Though no cases have yet been documented in Pennsylvania, PGC is also concerned feeding wildlife may lead to an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis, a respiratory bacterial disease which can kill white-tailed deer, elk, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, foxes and domestic livestock.

Poor nutritional content in some feed can cause other issues such as:

• Lactic acidosis—a fatal metabolic disease resulting from too much grain intake;

• Foundering—hoof growth disruption and pain in the hoof growth plate caused by high carbohydrate foods such as corn;

• Aflatoxicosis—a fatal condition caused when animals eat fungal toxins growing on spoiled food, particularly grains.

If one is adamant about providing food to attract wildlife to one's property, PGC recommends planting native vegetation to provide both nutritional sustenance and cover.

Residents wishing to do so can contact the Northeast Regional Office (570-675-1143, 570-675-1144) for more information on how to establish an appropriate habitat for wildlife.

More information is also available from the game commission website: www.pgc.pa.gov.