Proximity to nature is a highly prized asset in today’ urban life but cities are making efforts to provide quality green spaces in city centres and urban areas. And along with these green spaces come a host of small and bigger residents, local species of wildlife! So we get used to their presence and regular interaction with them.
Under these circumstances, feeding wild animals, especially those that seem particularly cute or endearingly curious about us humans, is not easy to avoid. There will come a time when a squirrel or a hedgehog will run across your garden or another time when you come across other species of wildlife in larger parks or even reserves. However, we should keep ourselves in check! We may think we are helping these creatures, but in reality we may be doing more harm than good. There are many reasons not to feed wildlife, and the ones that follow are some of the most important ones:
- Providing an artificial source of food causes the adults of wildlife species populations to produce larger families compared to what their environment’s natural food supply can support.
The additional food supply that humans provide can lead some species to procreate in higher numbers to what the habitat’s equilibrium would allow. This leads to overpopulation which in turn can lead to instances of starvation or epidemics[sc:1].
- Animals require specialised diets which they need to keep to in order to stay healthy; the wrong food can even kill an animal!
The dangers are even greater for a baby animal if it receives the wrong food for as short as 1-2 days, it can permanently damage developing bone and muscle. What is more, the wrong food can cause different kinds of disease, mouth injuries, throat obstructions and death – sometimes it also leads to the pollution of its environment. For examples, a lot of people feed ducks with bread but this can be harmful to wildfowl, leading to potentially fatal or disabling health conditions. The uneaten bread can also cause changes to the chemical and bacteriological content of water, increasing the risk of avian disease[sc:2].
- Feeding wildlife changes species behaviour, often with catastrophic results.
Feeding animals can interrupt migration patterns which can lead to their death but also disruption of different habitats. By feeding them, animals also get more used to human presence which can weaken their natural instincts. Tamed wild animals can become an easy target[sc:3].
- Providing food to wildlife in residential areas can often lead to damages to your property damage and unwelcome “houseguests”.
What a lot of people don’t realise, is that they may be inadvertently feeding wildlife. With the exception of birdseed feeders which can provide a targeted food source, some wildlife species can get access to food in pet food dishes but also when people don’t dispose of their garbage in the correct way[sc:4]. For example, in many cases foxes are caught rummaging trashcans.
This is why in some cases different regions and cities have laws that prohibit humans from feeding wildlife. So look out for relevant signs at your local park or reserve to make sure you are not doing something illegal!
In most cases, the best thing you can do for wildlife is to provide them with a habitat. Naturescaping is one such great way to provide the animals with natural sources of food and shelter that will not put them in danger in the way that human-provided food may. But you will still be able to enjoy wildlife on your property in a way that is safe for both you and the animals[sc:5][sc:comma][sc:6].