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Please don't feed wildlife!

No one likes to hear this, but it’s the unfortunate truth about where good intentions lead. Feeding wild animals— with the possible exception of songbirds— hurts much more than it helps. Every week, we get at least one call about a problem that could have been avoided if people hadn’t fed wild animals.

Wild animals don’t need our help to find food. They know what they’re doing and have been doing it alone since long before we even existed. When we introduce our own projections about “helping,” it causes more harm than good.

One way that feeding wild animals hurts them is with disease transmission. When groups of animals, especially of different species, share the same food sources, diseases and parasites spread like wildfire. “Cat” fleas (and the diseases they carry) have made jumps from cats to wildlife this way, and dog diseases like parvo and canine distemper are raging through wild animal populations, sometimes even leading to mass die-offs of endangered species.

Malnutrition is another issue. This problem is most noticeable in deer, whose digestive systems change seasonally. They become unable to digest high-sugar foods like corn in winter and can actually die of high blood sugar. Waterfowl fed by humans develop wing deformities, called angelwing syndrome, and ultimately die from it. Opossums are also very prone to malnutrition-related obesity and metabolic bone disease if they eat from artificial food sources.

Another issue is that you can’t pick and choose which animals show up to accept the free meal. The dog food you intended to go to raccoons is likely to attract coyotes and even bears. When these large predators start to hang out around humans and pets looking for food, they will be killed for it. Rodents also tend to overpopulate in areas where food is left outside, and your neighbors are likely to respond by using rodenticides, which are catastrophic for wild animals of all kinds.

When you feed wild animals, this also discourages them from seeking their natural food sources, which can throw an ecosystem out of balance and make them dependent on human care. Once an animal has been trained to approach people for food, it is likely to get itself into trouble when it starts trying to break into houses and kennels looking for more food.

This doesn’t mean you can’t help native animals! Supplemental feeders can be great for songbirds if there are no current disease outbreaks in your area. (Take these down at night if you notice nocturnal mammals showing up!) You can also see the guidelines of the National Wildlife Federation for suggestions on creating a wildlife sanctuary on your own property to naturally attract and assist wild animals. Native plants, nest boxes, sustainable practices, and water sources are all great ways to keep your wild neighbors happy and healthy.

But please: don’t leave out bowls of food for wildlife!


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1 Comment

Marcus Maki
Marcus Maki
Dec 13, 2022

can i have one

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