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Homeowners see increase in wildlife sightings


Morgan County residents are seeing a large number of deer and elk in their yards this year. Some welcome nature’s beauties, some feel these animals are a nuisance, and some are somewhere in between.
Prior to this winter, two unseasonably warm winters in a row combined for an uptick in wildlife populations. When animals can stay in their own habitat all season long, their numbers grow. But when harsh temperatures and large amounts of snow drive them out of their natural habitat and into residential areas as it has this winter, they don’t fare as well.
A majority of residents in Morgan County say they know deer have visited their yards even if they haven’t seen them. The animals leave distinct tracks in the snow, eat inviting vegetation and “leave droppings” behind. Most say that they love the signs of wildlife right in their own backyard, others complain that the animals cause too much damage to their property.
While they may be a bother to some, others actively seek them out.
Shirley Wilkerson loves seeing the critters so much, she went on a “wildlife spotting” drive through Henefer and Croydon and was pleasantly surprised when she saw not only spotted deer, elk and even a moose, but also a whole family of bald eagles. She said, “It is always better to see them in their environment than dead on the side of the road.”
Croydon resident Heidi Crouch has a regular visitor to her property they have named “Moosie.” This moose was left behind by its mother and stops by every day to eat with the horses. “She is so cute.” She said, “The deer, elk and moose have been really low this year. They are breaking into hay stacks and making a mess. We had to cut a small two point bull elk out of Wilde’s hay stack. He was all tangled up in bailing twine. They even have been coming right up to the front yard about 10-15 feet from a big picture window in our living room and eating branches off the trees.”
Although residents who have hay and feed on their property regularly can’t stop wildlife from feeding on their stores, the Utah Division of Wildlife discourages purposeful supplemental feeding, especially for deer who have more intricate stomach issues than bigger animals like moose or elk.
According to their website, each winter the DWR receives calls expressing concern for deer in the area. “Often these people ask about supplemental winter feeding to help carry the animals through extended periods of heavy snowfall.” But what might seem like a good idea can often do more harm than good.
While the DWR welcomes all the help it can get, supplemental deer feeding is usually not a good idea. “It sounds like an act of kindness and may even help some animals get through the cold months, but it can create major problems.”
The website states that deer are ruminants with four-part stomachs. Each stomach chamber progressively breaks down woody, leafy and grassy foods. “The stomach chambers contain microbes that are essential to digesting food. The type of microbes in deer digestive systems gradually change throughout the year and are very specific to the available food.  Suddenly changing a deer’s diet can easily lead to the deer eating food that it cannot readily digest. In these situations deer often die with full stomachs.” The DWR goes on to say that large groups of deer and elk congregating in one place can also attract unwanted predators to residential areas.
Residents are also reminded to use caution around wild animals, even those who appear docile. A moose can run up to 35 miles per hour, according to Wild Aware Utah, and along with elk and mule deer, can become aggressive.
It is wise to enjoy these beautiful creatures from a safe distance, and if you do encounter and aggressive animal, use the following safety tips: Keep pets on leashes; back away slowly if the animal shows any signs of aggression; make your presence known-make noise; if the animal knocks you down, cover your head and lie still until it retreats.

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