FWP Game Warden Ron Howell would like to remind folks that the supplemental feeding of game animals is illegal under Montana code (MCA 87-6-216) on private and state land on the Flathead Reservation, as well as off the reservation.
The law specifically prohibits the feeding of ungulates—(deer, elk, moose, and antelope), mountain lions and bears. The recreational feeding of birds (song birds, turkeys, pheasants, etc) can also be unlawful if it attracts ungulates or bears. Supplemental food includes grain, processed feed, hay, and other foods.
Howell noted that residents sometimes claim to be feeding turkeys, but this feeding can also attract other species. For example, if deer are drawn to feeding sites, they can attract mountain lions and pose a safety threat to neighbors. Howell added that several examples of unlawful feeding of wildlife have been turned in recently in the Polson area.
“The most recent incident in the Polson area was probably the worse example I have seen in my 9 years. Hay and salt blocks were actually delivered to the residence just for the deer (see pictures attached)”. The landowner does not own livestock. “Nearly 30 turkeys and countless deer were feeding on the pile when I arrived.” Another incident has been recently reported to Howell in the Ronan area. “Lots of turkeys are being fed which is attracting deer, and concerned neighbors are reporting seeing mountain lions in the area”. “I try to educate folks on the law, and give them a chance to clean up the attractants and stop the feeding by issuing a written warning first. If the feeding does not stop then I will issue a citation”.
Officials with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) note the Tribes have collaborated on information for the public on Living with Balance with mountain lions and grizzly bears and provided countless hours of education to farmers and ranchers, schools and the community about ways to reduce conflict with wildlife. Feeding wildlife is counter to all tribal efforts to reduce wildlife losses and minimize potential human wildlife conflicts.
–Here is the text to MCA 87-6-216:
87-6-216. Unlawful supplemental feeding. (1) A person may not provide supplemental feed attractants to game animals by:
(a) purposely or knowingly attracting any cloven-hoofed ungulates, bears, or mountain lions with supplemental feed attractants;
(b) after having received a previous warning, negligently failing to properly store supplemental feed attractants and allowing any cloven-hoofed ungulates, bears, or mountain lions access to the supplemental feed attractants; or
(c) purposely or knowingly providing supplemental feed attractants in a manner that results in an artificial concentration of game animals that may potentially contribute to the transmission of disease or that constitutes a threat to public safety.
(2) A person is not subject to civil or criminal liability under this section if the person is engaged in:
(a) the normal feeding of livestock;
(b) a normal agricultural practice;
(c) cultivation of a lawn or garden;
(d) the commercial processing of garbage; or
(e) recreational feeding of birds unless, after having received a previous warning by the department, the person continues to feed birds in a manner that attracts cloven-hoofed ungulates or bears and that may contribute to the transmission of disease or constitute a threat to public safety.
(3) This section does not apply to supplemental feeding activities conducted by the department for disease control purposes.
(4) A person convicted of a violation of this section shall be fined not less than $50 or more than $1,000 or be imprisoned in the county detention center for not more than 6 months, or both. In addition, the person, upon conviction or forfeiture of bond or bail, may be subject to forfeiture of any current hunting, fishing, or trapping license issued by this state and the privilege to hunt, fish, or trap in this state or to use state lands, as defined in 77-1-101, for recreational purposes for a period of time set by the court.