Winters in Canada can be COLD and many people see wildlife struggling to survive in this harsh climate and want to give them a helping hand. Feeding wildlife is the most common way that people try to help and it is often done with the best intentions, but it is important to know that by feeding wildlife, you may be doing more harm than good.
Some things to consider:
- Animals can become dependent on artificial food sources.
- The population can increase to numbers that are above what the natural ecosystem can support.
- Animals can become used to the presence of people, cars and pets, which can become dangerous for all. http://bc.ctvnews.ca/deer-culls-loom-as-b-c-towns-target-urban-bucks-and-does-1.1610916
- You may be attracting animals you do not want to attract, such as mice and rats.
- And of course, anytime that animals or people congregate at artificial food sources, there is an increased chance that disease will spread among them. Many diseases, including Chronic Wasting Disease, Tuberculosis and Salmonella can be easily spread by consuming food contaminated by co-feeding animals that are infected.
So what CAN you do to help wildlife?
- First, ensure that you are not unintentionally feeding wildlife by leaving out compost, garbage or pet food.
- If you are a bird feeder, it is important to remember that feeders need to be cleaned regularly to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. For more information, please see our article on feeding birds.
- Allow wildlife to be WILD. Appreciate them from a distance and notice how impressively they are adapted to their environment. You can also help by improving and protecting wildlife habitat so that they have an abundant supply of natural food and shelter.
For more information, please visit our website at http://www.ccwhc.ca/publications/wildlife_baiting.pdf for a full review of the Ecological and Human Social Effects of Artificial Feeding and Baiting of Wildlife.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has some good information about living with wildlife: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/FW/2ColumnSubPage/277348.html
For further reading:
Impacts of wildlife baiting and supplemental feeding on infectious disease transmission risk: A synthesis of knowledge. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 26 November 2013. Anja Sorensen, Floris M. van Beest, Ryan K. Brook
To report sick or dead wildlife, please contact the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre.