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  • Writer's pictureTrail Guide Joe

Keep Wildlife Wild; Don't Feed the Wildlife!

FED Wildlife is DEAD wildlife!

 
Signage from Zion National Park regarding feeding wildlife
 

Habituation

If you ever received a meal before, whether it's your kitchen, a restaurant, or convenience store, you learn these places are where you can be fed. The same can be said for animals. If you keep feeding animals in the wild, they learn to identify people as a source of food. Sure, for the small, cute, and cuddly animals, you would likely think this isn't as big of a deal as you probably don't mind being that close to something like a ground squirrel. However, if larger animals, like bears, start learning humans have food, the outcome could be far less cute and cuddly. Wild animals are better served without the habit of checking humans for food.


Overpopulation

Animal populations are kept in check by a few natural means; food supply is one of those means. If the food supply increases, the population can also increase. In many cases, this will lead to overpopulation which can cause a host of other problems. Overpopulation can cause animal populations to spill further into residential areas, increase the number of aggressive territorial interactions, create unsanitary conditions due to excessive animal droppings, and even more frequent transmission of animal transmitted diseases all because of the dramatic increase in population. Wild animals and humans, both, are better served without the sustained increase in food supply to wildlife.


Environmental Consequences

Ecosystems are a very delicate balance between a biome and the animals and insects that inhabit them. When that balance is upset, either because the biome or the wildlife presence is altered, the ecosystem will, at best, be strained or even completely collapse. Stemming from overpopulation, plant life that use to be held in balance by a natural, sustainable population of wildlife might now be over picked or completely trampled by the increased numbers. Should these be plants that aid pollinators, now the population of bees and butterflies might start to decline as well as the other plants they pollinate. From there, entire food chains can be disrupted. In this case, it's safe to say that the balance of the ecosystems of this planet depend heavily wildlife remaining wild.


Improper Diet Leading To Health Problems

"Super-size me" anyone? If eating fast food everyday can cause health problems for humans, how could it not cause the same, or worse, issues for wildlife? With no health remedies to treat themselves, feeding wildlife can cause shortened lifespans of the animals we love to observe. With younger populations of animals already susceptible to predators, limiting a species to younger generations could leave them extra vulnerable to being wiped out of an area completely. Not to mention, if the predator feasts on a malnourished animal, it too will be robbed of the nutrients it needs as well. This of course can be passed all the way up the food chain creating many sickly animals across many species. Of course, you just read how this could be devastating to the ecological balance.


Conclusion

Although it is awe-inspiring to be up close to wildlife, feeding them to achieve this result is not the answer. The results, ranging from overpopulation, to health problems from poor nutrition, and outright ecological collapse, will be nothing short of a complete disaster! If I can add one personal point to this conclusion, it would be this: to feed wildlife and train them to be around for ease of observation robs you of the magic of the wild. To be on a hike and see a bear out of chance leaves a greater, more lasting impact than feeding a bear and training it to be around day after day waiting for the next meal. By doing so, you might even make yourself the next meal should the regular feedings suddenly stop. Do everyone a favor and help keep the wildlife wild, don't feed them!


Happy Trails!

https://www.discoverwildcare.org/wildlife-resources/feedingwildlife/
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