A Pennsylvania trophy elk likely died from supplemental feeding by humans, according to state wildlife officials.
Tests on the dead 6-by-7 trophy bull elk indicated that rumen acidosis, a dietary disorder found in animals, was the cause of death. The disorder is caused by the sudden introduction of carbohydrates, such as grain and corn, into an animal's diet, which disrupts its system often resulting in death. Elk mostly feed on vegetation and grasses, so their bodies are not accustomed to eating carbs.
State wildlife officials believe that the food the bull ate was likely supplemental food left by well-intentioned people who were trying to help game animals survive a recent cold snap. If that was the case, it was a misguided attempt to help wildlife.
In Pennsylvania, intentionally feeding elk and bear is illegal. Aside from disrupting animals' diets, supplemental feeding can cause animals to gather in higher densities, often resulting in the spread of disease. It can also cause animals to become less wary of humans, prompting them to start feeding in populated areas.
"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, director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission told FOX 43 News. "Those who want to help wildlife should also know about the potential harm the could result from their actions."
RELATED: Watch this incredible video of two huge elk clashing in the wilderness.