Feeding wild animals may do more harm than good.
Whether you are unintentionally feeding bears by leaving birdseed out along the trails, or intentionally feeding ducks at Gillies Lake, providing food to wild animals does more harm than good.
Threats to wildlife:
- Animals can become dependent on artificial food sources.
- Animals can lose their natural fear of humans and pets, becoming more prone to conflict.
- Artificial feed, of ANY kind, is not healthy for wildlife.
- Wild animals may gather in large numbers when they are being fed. This concentration of animals in one area can spread parasites and disease and cause destruction of natural habitat.
- Artificial food supplies can cause animals to produce larger families. This can lead to starvation when natural food sources can’t support their increased numbers.
Threats to people:
- Feeding wildlife may attract “unwanted” animals to your property.
- Animals will learn to associate humans with food, and can become a problem to neighbours.
- Habituated animals can become aggressive.
- Feeding animals near roads increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents, resulting in property damage, injury or death.
The bird feeders at Hersey Lake have been removed in consideration of these threats to both people and animals.
The Harmful Practice of Feeding Ducks and Geese
Feeding ducks and geese might seem like a fun and kind thing to do, but many people don’t realize that it can lead to severe negative consequences, both for the birds and for the environment.
Effects on the health and survival of waterfowl:
- Wild waterfowl (ducks and geese) get the nutritionally balanced food they need from nature; they do not need to be fed by humans.
- Foods not suitable for wild birds, such as bread, cookies, crackers, chips, etc. can create nutritional disorders and many health problems like MBD (metabolic bone disease) and “Angel Wing”; this can lead to an inability to fly and death.
- Food like bread products and crackers expand in the stomach, and the bird will be feeling “full”. This will lower the birds’ motivation to feed on the natural nutrient-rich food that they need to survive.
- Every natural habitat has its own capacity to sustain a certain amount of wildlife. Providing extra food increases the number of birds in a concentrated area, resulting in overcrowding, increased stressful interactions and aggression and injuries among waterfowl.
- Overcrowding also increases disease outbreaks like avian botulism, virus, and fungal infection (aspergillosis) in areas with lots of feeding by humans.
- Human-fed ducks often lose their fear of humans and are therefore more likely to be caught by predators.
Effects on the environment:
- Human-fed waterfowl leads to overcrowding the habitat, which increases waterfowl feces. In normal numbers, it creates no harm; but if it’s more than the habitat is naturally able to sustain, increased elements from feces can lead to excessive algae growth, decreased oxygen level, and fowl smelling water. In some cases, this decrease in water quality can even lead to blue-green algae that produces toxins harmful to wildlife, fish, humans and pets.
- Remnants of food from overfeeding can also cause pollution, increase the spread of disease, decrease water quality and attract pigeons and rodents.
Thank you to our local birding enthusiasts for assisting us with compiling the above information. More information can be found on the following sites:
- Portland Audubon: Feeding Waterfowl: Don’t Feed Waterfowl
- Department of Environmental Conservation: Stop Feeding Waterfowl: Is it good to feed waterfowl
- The Wildlife Center of Virginia: The Problem with Feeding Ducks
The Timmins birdwatching community can be reached at the following sites:
Timmins and Area Bird Group Facebook page
Birds of South Porcupine and Timmins webpage