Should you feed wildlife?

This is an interesting topic, and that’s because the answer is different depending on who you ask. The elderly woman next door who leaves out food for the deer will tell you there’s no harm in it, after all, what if the winter is particularly harsh? The deer might die if she didn’t leave out some corn for them. IF you were the ask the farmer on the other side of the road, he’s probably already on his porch waiting to shoot the wildlife granny’s corn is bringing in. The farmer realizes many other animals aside from deer like corn, and some of those animals pose a threat to his crops and home.

So who’s right? The elderly woman who sees feeding wild animals as a kindness, or the farmer who sees the act as a way of drawing in nuisance wildlife?

The answer is this: any time humans interfere with the natural order of nature, things can go bad quickly. Granny may be right: wildlife does need our help sometimes, but by feeding it close to her home she’s inviting other animals like squirrels, mice and rats to set up shop in her home. It doesn’t take long for wild animals to learn where a source of food is, and corn–a favorite of homeowners–is enjoyed by many critters.

Will feeding wildlife attract nuisance animals?

What people don’t realize, however, is that even a bird feeder can be enough to draw in problem wildlife. Anyone who maintains a bird feeder can attest to the fact that squirrels and chipmunks aren’t far behind the birds when it comes to seed. It doesn’t take much encouragement for squirrels regularly getting food from a feeder to decide they should just make a nest in your attic or eaves. If you’re really unlucky, your feeder will attract scarier nuisance wildlife–like bears. And bears are much more difficult to keep off a property than squirrels or chipmunks. A bear can tear down most homemade defenses–and the damage is often expensive to repair.

Remember this: if you regularly leave food outside of your home for wildlife or stay animals, you will eventually have a nuisance animal issue. Or, if you don’t consider wildlife sharing you home a problem, your neighbors will eventually develop a nuisance wildlife problem.

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When is it okay to feed wildlife?

So when it is okay to feed wildlife? As a primary rule, the general public should not take it upon themselves to care for wildlife. If there is some concern the winter is going to be bad and food won’t be available, you can contact the area Department of Environmental Control. Professionals may then come to your property to determine if there is a safe area to set up approved feeders. These feeders won’t be near the home; they will be located far enough away from the main house and buildings so that wildlife won’t be tempted to make a way into the home.

In truth, it is very rare that wild animals need our help. Even when food is scarce, the animals around us have adapted ways to survive. For some, a lack of food means they build more fat and burn that fat less frequently, for others, it means they conserve energy by sleeping more. The last thing you want is to have wild animals becoming dependant on what you’re leaving out. If for some reason you suddenly aren’t able to feed them, they won’t have built up their natural defenses for survival.

Always remember that wild animals are not our pets. They share this planet with us, but they are not ours to do with as we please. This includes providing them with care they don’t need. It can be easy to feel bad for wild animals; they starve to death, become injured, and are eaten by other wild animals all the time. But this is the cycle of nature. If we break that cycle, things like overpopulation happen, and when one area of the food chain gets out of whack, other areas suffer.

A good example of this would be areas where deer are over populated. With too many of these critters around, there are more car accidents and more damaged crops. Deer don’t have enough natural enemies, especially in places like the Northeast, so unfortunately things like harsh winters are necessary.

If you are truly concerned about the health of wild animals in your area, contact a wildlife professional in one of your local government offices. Unless you have special training, never take on feeding wildlife around your home. You may end up doing more harm than good in the long run.

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