Do Not Feed the Animals

As a foot slides one hesitant step closer, a small hand extends the morsel of food towards a duck, goose, or wily squirrel.  In the family outing to a park or lake, it’s often the first experience young children have with wild animals. Curiosity and wonderment encourage the desire to watch, and especially touch.  Feeders are an easy tool to hang from a variety of locations near to, and far from, a home’s windows.  Parents can encourage the safe distance to witness the arrival and departures of birds and the antics of squirrels.  For those wanting to help all wild animals, sympathy arrives at the sightings of a barn cat that prowls through the yard on occasion.  Are there rules in feeding wild creatures that appear helpless?

The Nose Knows!

In the season of picnics and outdoor gatherings, the aroma of meat, pet food, sugar, and other foods sails on the winds to indirectly produce an olfactory perception of a nearby creature.  Black bears can travel 18 miles, although in a straight line, to a food source, while snakes have a developed sense of perceiving scent particles in the air with their tongues. Just because of the enjoyment and necessity of eating, wild animals are not picky.  Opossums, raccoons, and rats will consume any treat, whether just unhealthy or potentially toxic. Bread is often in great supply, and a first thought.  While the ingredients may fill the animal, they contain no nutritional value and could cause sickness if mold is present.  A better option is to scatter thawed frozen peas or corn, or remove and tightly contain any remaining human or pet food. The habit of rinsing all recyclable glass and plastic containers, as well as cans, removes food remnants and minimizes odors.

Visitors Coming Round  

Wildlife arrives in a yard for specific reasons: perhaps your location is near a creek, or it offers a constant supply of pet food.  In hoping to feed a stray animal, the good-natured effort applied often attracts a more significant problem than a feral cat.  The nocturnal forager, the raccoon, uses 75% of its brain to see with its hands.  Through sensory signals, the masked animal can visualize objects inside containers, buildings, and barns, and work through semi-complicated levers and latches to enter. Other animals, such as coyotes and rats, will return to a food source and produce ever-multiplying numbers of offspring. Territorial aggression occurs when two species of animals fight over a food source, as well as the territory.  Sometimes removing access to food and water may eliminate your specific problem; however, scavengers carrying diseases, like distemper and parvo will still wander throughout neighboring yards in hopes of finding food.

A Lack of Wildlife

A location without evidence of playful rabbits and squirrels also implies that a wild cat, termed feral, is nearby.  Usually stealthy in order to avoid humans, the cat will show distrust and keep its distance.  Despite the kind intentions of the human, its instinctual desire will be to bite, kick, and scratch in hopes of escape, if caught. An animal born to the wild does not need human assistance or cat food.  The lack of small animals in your yard includes fierce control of the vermin population.

Baby and Den

Comfort in supplying the needs of water and food leads to the maternal instincts of a female creating a nest or locating a den out of a human’s sight.  The find is exciting, especially when kits, or baby rabbits, are found.  Even though parents may leave their babies unattended, it does not imply abandonment.  Similarly, it’s vital for homeowners, especially children, to leave animals alone, rather than providing foster care.

Feeding wildlife has its limits. If you ever fear your efforts might result in aggressive or destructive acts, then it is time to consider refraining from providing food.  Four-legged squatters can quickly move into attics, storage sheds, and crawl spaces with little disturbance to you.  Please, do not resort to pesticides!  Most chemicals hurt beneficial populations of insects, animals, and house pets.  It is not cruel to seek professional assistance!


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