Why not to feed wild animals

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Yes, it's fun to feed wild animals. A lot of fun! It feels good to do! However - and I'm not making this up - it is most definitely bad for the animals. Here are the reasons why:

  • Wildlife birth rates and fertility rates are based on the local food supply. If you feed animals, they have more babies. Okay, fine. But then if you ever stop feeding them, they all suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and more die than in the first place.
  • Even if they eat the food, it doesn't mean that food is the right kind of food for the animal's best health.
  • Animals that are fed grow attracted to people - sometimes that's okay I guess (it's how dogs and cats became domesticated a long time ago), but sometimes it's not good, when animals cause secondary bad problems, like spreading disease.
  • Animals, like humans, will take the easy way out. So if you feed them, they'll take the easy handout instead of working hard to survive. This is a problem, because when the animals aren't self-sufficient, when mother animals can't teach baby animals the ways to get their own food in the wild, these wild animals are screwed if you stop feeding them. It'd be like if the grocery store went away, and you had to forage in the forest for your dinner. Not going to end well.

Here's a reader email about feeding birds:

Hello David,
I came across your site looking for info I wanted on snakes on my property. They are a not a pest species at all and I wanted only to identify them. Just wanted to say I totally agree with you on your attitudes on wildlife and humane pest control. I hope to get a chance to find out your views on other approaches to co-existing with wildlife. I moved just recently to the CA high desert. It is so beautiful. One question that comes to mind is if you have any cautions on putting out bread crumbs and the like for birds. I’ve heard crows are very opportunistic and that too much easy grub allows them to drive out other species. I’ve seen what I think are crows eating my bread scraps but also brown sparrows and quails. Any comments?
Best regards,

Thanks for the nice letter. Feeding any animals at any time is a dicey situation, because the extra food allows for higher birth rates, fertility success, etc. Then you have extra animals. If the food supply stops, then the extra animals become malnourished, and many can die. It's best to keep food at its natural level - any time you make the food supply fluctuate, you're messing with the natural order's ability to predict what the likely food supply is, and animals can face future hardship as a result. So if you do feed them, you'd have to feed them forever. Every day for years and years and years, with consistency.

Here's a great article on the subject my Columbian friend wrote:

    Should I feed wild animals? - What is the first thing that comes in your mind every time you see an animal in the road thin and weary looking for something to eat in the small pile of grasses? What do you feel towards a cute little squirrel whose eyes show loneliness and almost pleading telling you that you are the only one that can save it? The answer is almost instantaneous, without us thinking of the consequences of our actions, we tend to be influenced more by what we feel in that moment and try to give them something which we thought could help them survive.
    Ironically, this is not supposed to happen. Giving them food would only increase the chances that they would develop dependence on your kindness and would come often to visit you every time they need something to feed itself. At first, you might just find this okay and a little funny the way they always come up to your door and give you that “look”. But eventually you would also get tired and would just send them away the next time they come visit you but the problem then is that you would have a very hard time sending them back to their places.
    Feeding these wild animals you see on the road also increases the risk of endangering them because they might just do what they did with you to solicit the same response from every traveler they see on the road and unknowingly you might just have started a feeding tradition for them which would give them a feeling of security on that area. In no time, you would notice though that they are not the only ones in there but there will come a few more species of wild animals that would somehow to the same and these might just clog the roads and cause some minor accidents in the peoples’ attempt to stay clear of their way.
    Also, the problem with manifesting kindness in wild animals that you see on your property would give way to more wild animals that might prey on those cute little animals you feed every day and would increase the problem that you have about getting those predators out of your property as well. Aside from that, once you have stopped giving them food, they might just sneak inside your kitchen to see what they can find or worse, they might just feed on the livestock that you have on your farm if not getting a liking for a sumptuous meal out of your pet birds or even cats.
    Aside from these, wild animals of course are not free from viruses or bacteria that they might have gotten in the wild and the tendency of them leaving behind such viruses can be transferred to your pets or even worse, they might just find their way into the human immune system and create a medical condition or disease.
    Unknowingly, you might be the person to blame because without you feeding these rascals, they might have just gone back to their habitat to look for food and try to survive on their own. Yes, pity and kindness should be shown but not in all circumstances that might come your way especially if you are faced with wild animals. Without you knowing where they came from and what kind of environment they present, you might just create an imbalance in the system of the food chain which would not only affect these animals but in some part might pose a danger to the human population as well. So, before you act just take a little time to think things over before you actually reach out your hand in kindness.

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