IT ALL RIGHT TO FEED BEARS AND OTHER WILD ANIMALS?
receive the following kinds of questions each spring when people begin
to have more interactions with wildlife.
Backyard bird feeders are all over the place, so clearly it's OK to
feed birds even though technically they are wild animals. People also
feed squirrels and pigeons in parks or throw food to chipmunks around
Is it illegal
to feed other wild animals like deer or bears? What about the turtles
and ducks in our city park lake? I can understand exercising caution
for safety reasons in some situations. But what is acceptable and what
The answer to your general question about whether it is advisable or
legal to feed wildlife depends on the species, the location and who's
making the rules. It is against the law to feed wild dolphins and alligators
on the federal endangered species list or in national parks are also
off-limits. As for deer and other game species, the rules vary from
state to state.
from any legal aspects, feeding a bear with sharp teeth and big claws
is not a good idea, no matter how cute and cuddly it appears to be.
Feeding raccoons can often lead to their becoming a nuisance.
Park Service says, "Feeding wild animals disrupts their lives,
and is dangerous for people. When animals become used to being fed,
they become habituated and no longer act naturally."
that as somewhat of an overstatement and too restrictive because clearly
backyard birds do not qualify. Why the statement does not apply to these
animals is a question for the NPS. But I agree that we want to see truly
wild animals in a national park.
animals in the wild that are waiting to be fed might make your wildlife
adventure more akin to a visit to the zoo.
some animals under some circumstances is fine, lots of people do so,
usually without adversely affecting themselves or the animals.
game species the rules vary. In some places it is legal to put out corn
or other "bait" to attract deer, but it's against the law
in others. What is legal and what is not varies across the country.
Many of the laws governing such activities are geared to the lowest
common denominator of how people behave and are not about the animals
In my opinion,
feeding turtles, ducks and fish in public lakes is generally not a problem
for the turtles, ducks or fish, although I feel certain some wildlife
enthusiasts would disagree.
would most likely be painted turtles, slider turtles or possibly soft-shell
turtles. They readily learn to come near shore for a handout.
probably know you are coming by ground vibrations transmitted into the
water as you walk toward the lake or by sight.
is the same as Pavlov's dog that salivated when Pavlov rang the bell
before feeding time. Turtles, ducks and fish are not dumb in their own
worlds, and they associate the presence of people with food.
in particular can go for weeks or even months without eating, so such
food would only be a supplement to their natural diet and would not
result in a reliance on their being fed. No turtle is likely to suffer
from a health standpoint because of supplemental feeding as is sometimes
true with wild mammals that are overfed and develop a dependency.
aquatic animals around a lake provides an opportunity to observe them
and appreciate them without negative consequences to the animals themselves
or to the people doing the feeding. And none of the animals are likely
to become a dangerous nuisance.
the regulations about feeding whatever wild animals you expect to encounter.
If you stay within the legal guidelines and add a dose of common sense,
feeding wild animals can often be a gratifying experience.
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