Be a Wildlife Ally

Two people walking on a trail with a deer in the background

Together, We Can Live in Harmony

With warmer weather arriving, more people are out and about having picnics, boating and exploring parks and trails. With more people out in nature, it can increase the chances of local wildlife getting ahold of human food. Here are a few reasons why feeding wildlife can be harmful.

Plastic bags tangled up in a fence and tree
Avoid using plastic bags. They break down into tiny toxic particles that contaminate soil and waterways and enter the food chain when animals accidentally ingest them.

Impacts of human food on wildlife

  1. Dependence: Feeding wildlife can make them dependent on humans for food and they may become unable to survive on their own. Wild animals are very capable of finding their own food and don’t require our help.
  2. Protect their bellies: Wildlife have specialized diets. When they eat human food such as bread and granola bars, it can lead to malnutrition and other health problems. For example, waterfowl such as swans, ducks and geese develop angel wing syndrome – a severe and often fatal deformity.
  3. Injuries: Hand feeding wildlife is especially dangerous because there is no guarantee a wild animal knows where food stops and where your fingers begin. Wildlife fed by humans can develop food-seeking aggression and become hostile towards humans when they don’t receive the human food they want.
  4. Health: It can sometimes be hard to tell if an animal is sick. Feeding wildlife puts you at risk of coming too close to a potentially sick animal and can further spread disease.
  5. Miscommunication: The different ways humans communicate that they’re friendly isn’t the same for animals. A wild animal may misinterpret why you are approaching them and may attack to defend itself.
Angle wing syndrome. Photo credit: The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Ways you can help wildlife

  1. Stay on trails: When exploring parks, stay on designated trails and follow park signage. Many wildlife call the places we enjoy exploring home, so respecting their space is a simple way to keep them safe.
  2. Pack it in, pack it out: always dispose of garbage and recycling responsibly. If you can’t find a receptacle, pack it up and throw it away when appropriate.
  3. Pick up after your pet: Surprisingly, not all animal poop is the same. The waste left behind by wild animals is beneficial to the ecosystem because those animals consume resources and nutrients from the ecosystem. However, dog poop contains high quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus that can cause imbalances in the ecosystem.
  4. Enjoy from a distance: Wildlife is beautiful. We know it can be hard to resist getting close, but we must keep wild animals wild to ensure a healthy and balanced ecosystem.
  5. Spread the word:  Let your friends and family know that feeding wildlife does more harm than good. Be a good community steward and lead by example by not feeding wildlife.
People sitting on a bench with ducks behind them.
Always enjoy the presence of wildlife from a distance. Giving them space keeps them comfortable in their own environment.

We can all do our part to help keep ourselves and wildlife safe. They depend on us to protect their environment and sometimes it’s the smallest actions that have the most impact.

If you have questions or comments about wildlife health, reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.

Main photo credit to Enn Martin

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