British Columbia is home to a vast array of wildlife, and it is often tempting for humans to feed the adorable ducks, cute raccoons or the darling deer.
Unfortunately, wildlife often pays for humans’ bad habits. Whether that’s intentionally feeding the geese or gulls, putting out garbage in non-wildlife-proof bins, or littering, such routines contribute too often to habituated animals being unnecessarily injured or killed.
“The intentional feeding of wildlife is 100 per cent preventable,” says BC SPCA chief scientific officer Dr. Sara Dubois, pointing to the case of Vancouver’s famous “downtown deer”, which went viral online in July, wandering the streets of Vancouver after it apparently swam across Burrard Inlet. The young deer now resides in Stanley Park, and videos of the friendly animal approaching humans, licking their hands and letting them pet it have been posted online as well.
“Habituated wildlife are more susceptible to predators and vehicle collisions, and no matter how often the public is asked to please, not feed the wildlife, there are always those who can’t resist, or are unaware of the dangers,” Dubois says. “Ticketing is rare even if bylaws are in place, as it’s hard to catch people in the act. We need to make it socially unacceptable – just like littering.”
Feeding bears, cougars, coyotes and wolves is illegal under the Wildlife Act, she notes, but even so, such animals are often killed by conservation officers if they become too used to humans and human food, and increase the risk of human-wildlife interaction and potential conflict.
“Feeding wildlife is not only a bad idea for the animal, but for you, your pets, your neighbor and your community,” Dubois says.
One of the rules of disqualification for the BC SPCA’s annual Wildlife-In-Focus photography contest – still open for entries to amateur B.C. photographers until Sept. 30 – is wildlife feeding, she says. Any disqualified photos submitted are later used for “what not to do” examples in the BC SPCA’s educational materials and programs.
“Just because you love animals or even if they’re ‘begging’ for it, it’s best for everyone if you don’t feed wild animals,” Dubois says. “Help spread the message! Let people know they’re doing more harm than good if they’re feeding wildlife.”
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.