A herd of mule deer eat alfalfa put out on the snow during winter feeding.

An eastern Idaho advisory committee on whether to feed deer and elk this winter will hold its first meeting of the season at the end the month.

The committee, made up of five locals, assists Idaho Fish and Game to assess winter conditions and make recommendations based on conditions.

“They have their eyes and ears out in different areas across the state, in their own communities and neighborhoods to watch for conditions to be rough on those critters,” said James Brower of Fish and Game. “This will be their preliminary meeting where they talk about what happened last year and what it’s looking like this year.”

The first meeting is set for 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at the Upper Snake Regional Fish and Game office at 4279 Commerce Circle in Idaho Falls. The public is invited to the meeting.

Brower said the committee meets several times during the winter as they monitor conditions for wildlife.

“Committee members also serve as sounding boards for citizens in their communities and communicate with Fish and Game staff on a regular basis,” he said. “Basically they’re a committee that will advise us to whether we need to feed ungulates or not. Typically the answer is no.”

Although rare, feeding has occurred in recent years to feed elk on the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area after a large fire consumed most of the winter feed. Feeding has also been used to bait elk or deer away from highways to keep people and animals safe.

Fish and Game often sets up panels or fencing to keep deer and elk away from haystacks during the winter.

During especially trying winters, elk and deer can be fed to give them a boost until spring green up.

“It will depend on how much snowpack we get and more so than the amount of snow, what can be difficult and hard for deer and elk is the crusting of the snow and what the snow conditions are like,” Brower said. “If it’s light and fluffy and they can move around pretty easy, they can dig down to get the calories that they need. But if it’s hard and frozen solid and packed, it becomes extremely difficult to move and you’re expending more energy when they’re trying to dig down to get those calories, if they can even do it.”

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