Coeur d'Alene Idaho

Contribute to the protection of wintering wildlife by letting animals alone.

For some wildlife, being left alone during the winter months might be the difference between life and death.
In Idaho, winter is a difficult season for the state’s wildlife, particularly for big game animals, which travel to lower elevations and spend the winter season closer to humans than they do during other seasons. People can assist animals by leaving them undisturbed so that they have a better chance of surviving the cold months.

What exactly do we know about animals that hibernates? The availability of fodder is limited, and animals can seldom achieve their entire nutritional requirements by grazing on naturally occurring grass, especially at lower elevations. Deer, elk, and other big game animals build up fat reserves earlier in the year, which typically allows them to survive most Idaho winters. However, even the healthiest animals’ limited fat reserves can be depleted, and fawns and calves are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition and winterkill, especially in the absence of their mothers.

During a “typical” winter, which does not include severely cold temperatures or unusually thick snow, approximately 90% of adult deer and elk survive. However, this number can be substantially lower for fawns and calves, who are smaller and less capable of withstanding the harsh winter weather conditions than adults. Approximately 40% of mule deer fawns perish during a regular Idaho winter, and the number increases significantly during a difficult winter, thus leaving wildlife alone can actually mean the difference between life and death for them.

One method of avoiding disturbing wintering wildlife is to simply leave them alone when you’re out in the open during the day. If your presence or activities compel them to move, you’re probably too close.

Know the restrictions before you go, and be on the lookout for seasonal changes and forest closures, such as the recent closure of the Targhee National Forest in Eastern Idaho, which you should know about before you go. Closures like this one safeguard regions where huge concentrations of wintering deer and elk tend to concentrate, which is important for the survival of the species. The fact that you are unaware is not an excuse. If you have any questions, check out the most recent maps and contact your local forest service or Fish and Game office.

Keep your dog under your command at all times.

Even if your dog is not pursuing large game animals, the very presence of your dog may be enough to force them to escape and expend excessive energy that they would not have expended otherwise. A dog is considered a predator by big game species, and the effects of free-running dogs on wintering game can be significant. Also keep in mind that it is against the law to allow dogs to chase or harass large game. Remember that while you often have a plethora of alternatives for where you may exercise your dog, big game animals have a limited number of possibilities for where they can safely spend the winter months.

While driving, keep an eye out for big wildlife.

Auto incidents involving big game animals, particularly around the holidays, are more common during the winter months, therefore drivers should exercise extra caution during this time of year. “The most effective defense against a wildlife/vehicle collision is to stay vigilant,” “Krista Biorn, a habitat biologist with the Department of Fish and Game, shared her thoughts. “In order to ensure their own safety as well as the protection of Idaho’s wildlife, drivers should slow down and factor in a few extra minutes to their trip time.” Accidents involving vehicles and wildlife are not only dangerous, but they are often expensive.. Generally, hitting a deer or an elk leads in thousands of dollars in car damage, not to mention the possibility of injury to the vehicle occupants and the extinction of animals in the area.

These suggestions will assist you in lowering your risks of being involved in an animal collision:

The hours of dawn, dusk, and night are the most active for game animals, so keep an extra eye out and be extra cautious at those times.

Check your surroundings for movement, especially near the fog line and the side of the road, and adjust your speed if necessary. When driving at night, make use of your high beams when necessary and keep an eye out for flashing eyeballs in headlights.

If you observe one animal cross the road, slow down quickly and keep an eye out for more animals that may be crossing.

Maintain heightened awareness in locations where wildlife crossing signs have been placed, as these indicate common migration routes or regions where big game winters.

Stay on the highway and avoid losing control of your vehicle. While braking as hard as you can, keep your eyes on the road. When drivers lose control of their vehicles while attempting to avoid an animal, the most devastating accidents are more likely to occur.

Don’t provide food for wintering big game.

While it may seem paradoxical to feed large game when there is limited food available for deer, elk, and other species, feeding large game can create significant problems, even when done with the best of intentions.


The policy of the Department of Fish and Game is that natural habitat and food must be provided to ensure the survival of animals, save in emergency cases. Regardless of how harsh the winter is, some animals will succumb to their natural deaths. That is an unavoidable aspect of nature, and animals who are overstressed from the winter might succumb even when food is plentiful.


When large game animals are fed by humans, it can result in a slew of complications. They have the potential to develop used to handouts, alter normal migration patterns, cause property damage, create traffic hazards, and attract predators such as mountain lions to their territory. Congregated animals can also be more susceptible to disease transmission, such as brucellosis and chronic wasting disease, and can cause a variety of other issues.


If there is an emergency scenario, Fish and Game personnel will feed the animals.

In every region of the state save the Panhandle, which has never had a winter feeding program, Fish and Game has winter feeding advisory groups, and they are prepared to take action if an emergency situation occurs.


The regional advisory committees keep an eye on the weather and keep a close check on the amount of snow on the ground. They also keep an eye out for things like crust on the snow that makes it difficult for animals to forage for food, extended periods of sub-zero temperatures, animals congregating on private agricultural lands and causing problems, and a variety of other things that can affect an animal’s ability to survive.

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