wildlife may seem like an enjoyable way to connect with nature, but it can
often lead to serious problems for species like squirrels, raccoons, deer
“Wild animals who get used to a handout will often take the easy route
despite ample natural foods being available – even in urban areas,” says Dr.
Sara Dubois, chief scientific officer for the BC SPCA. “Although it might
seem harmless and cute to feed a squirrel on a park bench or ducks at the
local pond, these activities can lead to increased habituation.”
Dubois says fed wildlife can become dependent on unreliable food sources and
suffer nutritionally when given inappropriate foods.
“Habituated wild animals are also more susceptible to predators and vehicle
collisions, as they lose their fear of people and the associated flight
In other cases, she says, wild animals who have been fed regularly can
develop food-seeking aggression and can become hostile towards people and
pets. “It is usually then that trappers or conservation officers are called
in to deal with the situation.
Dubois notes that human carelessness can also lead to urban wildlife
becoming habituated. “Putting garbage out the evening before pickup, using
non-wildlife-proof bins, keeping pet food outside, leaving fallen fruit on
the ground and littering can lead to situations where wild animals – and
their offspring – are killed unnecessarily,” she says.
”One area where the experts disagree is on the feeding of migratory birds.
Whether you agree or disagree with feeding birds, it is the most widespread
and popular form of human-wildlife interaction worldwide.”
Proponents believe it improves the survival of wintering birds, while other
experts believe it causes birds to become nutritionally imbalanced. Strong
evidence has also been documented to show bird feeders are responsible for
spreading diseases such as salmonella among bird populations. Although the
BC SPCA prefers you to attract birds naturally with native plants, if you
are going to feed migratory birds, please keep the following tips in mind.
feeders are not accessible to other species by using baffles and
• Keep cats indoors and ask your neighbours to do so as well.
• Clean feeders regularly with a 10 per cent bleach dilution
to prevent disease outbreaks.
• Feed seasonally, when natural resources are limited. Consult
your local bird feed or nature store to determine the right feed
for the season and the species.
• Place feeders in protected areas, out of the rain, snow and
• Place feeders as far away from windows as possible. If it
must be near a window, place it less than one metre away and use UV
window decals to prevent injury.
• Don’t ground feed, and clean spilled seeds frequently to
avoid attracting rodents.
• Do not use herbicides, fungicides or pesticides in your
• If maintaining a hummingbird feeder in the winter, ensure
that it does not freeze, as it is likely the only food source for
the birds who are using it.
• Never feed ducks, geese, swans, gulls, herons or eagles.
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