A 6×7 bull elk was recently found dead in Byrnedale, Elk County, Pennsylvania. Game Commission officials believe well-intentioned people may have killed the elk by leaving out corn to help wildlife survive the winter. The elk died of rumen acidosis, a condition often brought on by a sudden change in diet from the normal grasses and plants to corn or other sources of carbohydrates that the animal cannot digest.

Winter feeding of wildlife has long been widespread in Pennsylvania although it is now illegal to feed elk and bears throughout the state.

“Most times, the best way to help wildlife make it through the winter is to step back and allow the animals’ instincts to take over,” Cal DuBrock of the Game Commission, told “In a natural setting, most wildlife will change their behaviors to adapt to colder temperatures and scarcer food supplies. Supplemental feeding can alter that behavior and have detrimental, and sometimes fatal, effects.”

The best way to help wintering wildlife, said DuBrock, is to improve winter habitat.