Feeding wildlife may seem like an enjoyable way to connect with nature, but often it leads to serious problems for species like squirrels, raccoons, deer, and bears, doing more harm than good. Even bird feeding is controversial and the pros and cons of the activity need to be considered along with the responsibilities that come with it.
Most people know that unprotected garbage, compost, fallen fruit and pet food can attract unwanted wildlife. Rodents may be the least of your worries though if a bear happens upon an unnatural food cache. Unfortunately however, wildlife often pays for our bad habits. Putting the garbage out the evening before pick-up, using non-wildlife-proof bins, and littering in school yards and roadsides, contribute too often to a habituated animal (and sometimes its offspring) being killed unnecessarily.
Some municipalities have attempted to reduce the death toll by creating bylaws that require the use of wildlife-proof garbage bins and preventing early placement of bins, while others have converted local landfills to transfer stations to reduce wildlife attractants. The number of wildlife killed due to conflicts that result from unintentional feeding can further be reduced with proactive enforcement and community education.
The intentional feeding of wildlife is 100% preventable.
Wild animals that get used to a hand-out will often take the easy route despite ample natural foods being available – even in urban areas. Although it might seem harmless and cute to feed a squirrel on a park bench, ducks at the local pond, or leave a little treat out for the neighbourhood raccoons, all these activities can lead to increased habituation. Fed wildlife can become dependent on unreliable food sources and suffer nutritionally when given inappropriate foods (which is most of the time).
What about feeding backyard birds? Learn more about wildlife feeding issues and the pros and cons of feeding birds and its responsibilities.
Photo credits: Sally Cornies and Kyung-Won Shin
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.