Please don't feed wildlife
Last updated 12/8/2022 at 12:26pm
There has been a huge growth in the number of people who, in addition to feeding birds, also directly or indirectly feed deer, bear and other animals around their homes and cabins. Feeding of wildlife places wildlife at risk and puts them on a collision course with humans. Help keep wildlife from coming into conflict with people because when that happens, everyone loses.
The Reality of Feeding
Supplemental feeding encourages wildlife to become dependent on handouts that are not part of their natural diets.
Human foods are usually nutritionally inadequate for wildlife and may lead to subsequent health problems.
Young animals that are taught to depend on humans sometimes never develop normal foraging behavior, and could starve if the artificial food sources are removed or more likely become nuisances and come in conflict with humans.
Wildlife lose their fear of humans and learn that they can boldly forage for human food, consequently conflicts, nuisance behavior, and risks to human safety are sure to occur.
Wild animals being fed by humans may congregate in unnaturally high numbers, and this is the perfect opportunity for diseases to spread. As populations of deer, raccoons, skunks and others grow unnaturally from being fed, a small number of diseased animals mixed in close quarters with a large group spread the disease to the whole group. Diseases such as rabies, distemper and many others are dependent on high animal populations.
Artificial feeding can increase wild animal populations causing more competition over resources. This can lead to more incidence of fighting over resources and injury among animals.
Feeding wildlife, especially prey species such as deer, squirrels and rabbits, often causes a domino or food chain effect. Due to such feeding, the prey densities increase, which in turn attracts predators such as coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions. Example: Increase deer numbers in your yard and you may be inviting a mountain lion for a free meal.
Editor's note: For a more detailed look at problems with feeding wildlife, see the recent Montana Outdoors story 'Death by Feeding' at: https://fwp.mt.gov/binaries/content/assets/fwp/montana-outdoors/2022/winterfeeding.pdf