Feeding wild animals may seem harmless and even helpful to the animals. Most people who feed wildlife have good intentions and do so because it allows them close contact with wild animals, or because they believe the animals need food handouts to survive. Unfortunately, however, food handouts are harmful to the health and wellbeing of wild animals and significantly decrease their chances of survival.
Wild animals who are accustomed to being fed are drawn into busy residential and commercial areas and are often hit by automobiles, severely injuring or killing the animals. People who feed wildlife encourage them to occupy not just their own property, but the properties of their neighbors. Often these animals are considered a “nuisance” and neighbors want to kill or remove them. Animals who are fearless of humans will approach people for food, and are sometimes mistaken as rabid or aggressive, then killed for that behavior. They also become easy targets for kids (with BB guns, rocks, darts) and others who mean them harm.
Wild animals who are accustomed to being fed will not develop essential survival skills and are poorly equipped to find basic necessities like food, water, and shelter. The food that humans often feed to wild animals, like bread, is nutritionally poor and can cause severe health issues for animals including physical deformities. Nature contains a perfect assortment of nutrient-rich foods for wild animals. Without the presence of handouts, animals will not starve but rather thrive on a natural diet.
Wild animals who are accustomed to being fed cluster unnaturally and become vulnerable to highly contagious and often deadly diseases. Diseases like distemper, rabies, botulism, salmonella, trichomoniasis, and pox can quickly wipe out hundreds of animals. Diseases caused by unsanitary bird feeders kill thousands of birds, squirrels, reptiles and other animals every year. Many of these diseases can also be passed to pets. In addition, always tightly secure garbage containers and remove cat and dog food placed outdoors immediately after feedings.
The best thing you can do to ensure the health and wellbeing of wild animals is to avoid feeding them and to observe and appreciate them from a safe distance. Please share this information with your family, friends, and neighbors. If you enjoy watching wildlife, there are many amazing local parks where you can observe hundreds of species of wildlife in their natural habitats. If you are looking for another way to get closer to wildlife, please consider volunteering at a local wildlife rehabilitation facility, where many sick, injured, and orphaned animals need care every day. Thank you for helping to keep wildlife safe and wild.