I know this may sound harsh. But, trust me, it is good advice.
As the Wildlife Admissions Specialist at PAWS, part of my job is to answer calls from people who have questions and concerns about wild animals.
After 8 years of fielding calls, I can safely say that food appears to be one of the core reasons for most wildlife injuries, illnesses and conflicts.
I will also add that the people who do feed wildlife, do it out of kindness, not malice. But that still doesn’t mean it’s okay to feed them.
Why do people feed wildlife?
People love to see them up close. So they will lure them with a number of food items. Some people think if they feed wildlife, they will make up for habitat loss. It will take a lot more than food to recover that. Other folks believe that feeding wildlife will keep them away from the pets’ food left outside or keep them out of their garden.
Whatever their reason may be, it is detrimental to the animals. I explain to the callers why feeding wildlife is a bad idea:
- Food that people offer (such as bread) is often nutritionally unsound and can cause serious, lasting health problems.
- Foraging skills diminish as the animal learns to depend on people. The normal pattern of movement is altered and it contributes to low survival rates.
- The animal loses his or her healthy fear of humans and pets. This puts both the animal and people in danger.
- It leads to overpopulation. Left alone, wildlife will have as many offspring as the natural food supply dictates.
- It can lead to disease that can spread to people, pets and other wildlife via:
- direct contact through bites, scratches.
- direct contact with membranes of mouth, nose, eyes.
- indirect transmission through fleas, ticks, mosquitoes.
- indirect transmission through inhalation of disease causing germs.
- It can lead to aggression with other wildlife and pets.
- It can cause habitat degradation and property damage.
So what can you do?
Here are some suggestions:
- Do not feed wildlife, intentionally or unintentionally!
- Keep trash cans and compost bins securely covered.
- Close pet doors at night.
- Feed pets indoors.
- If pets must be fed outdoors, feed them during the day. Monitor the feeding time and pick up the dishes immediately after.
Enjoying wildlife is still possible without feeding them. I suggest planting your yard with native plants to provide natural food and habitat. In addition, a good pair of binoculars allows you a closer look without disturbing the animals. Visits to parks and natural areas are a great way to watch wildlife, too.
Not feeding wildlife is best for wildlife and you.