Seeing wildlife up close is one of the most thrilling parts of exploring the outdoors, and you may be tempted to feed the animals to tempt them to come closer. Here's why you should never feed them, no matter how much you want to.
Image from C.P. Ewing.
Feeding wild animals doesn't just cause them harm from ingesting things they shouldn't, it also causes longer term damage that affects their behaviour and could put them at risk. Here's what can happen:
- Attraction to places with people: As animals get used to being fed by humans, they gather in places where people feed them, like campgrounds, boating areas, and tourist spots. This can cause normally solitary animals, like sharks, to get territorial when crowded into a smaller area.
- Increased aggressive behaviour: Animals may get more used to humans and associate them with an easy meal, which can cause the wildlife to act more aggressively towards people than normal. Personally, I've had even seemingly harmless animals like birds turn scary when chasing me just to get a peck at my sandwich.
- Injuries from human food: Many animals don't digest human food well, so eating food we toss them or scraps left behind from a picnic can cause wildlife to get sick.
In the moment, it can be hard to remember that feeding wild animals has long term effects on them and their environment, but your actions can help them survive longer in their natural habitat.
4 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Feed the Birds (or Any Animal) [Mental Floss]