Remember how much fun it was to go to the neighborhood park to feed the squirrels or pigeons when you were a kid, or to feed the animals at a petting zoo if the rules allowed? And if you’re a parent, there’s nothing better than to see the expression of joy on your young child’s face as she watches a family of hungry ducks devour leftover breadcrumbs while she tosses them into a local pond.
Potential Consequences of Backyard Feeding
Of course, when you feed birds or wild animals away from your property, you don’t have to deal with the potential consequences. Once an animal locates a steady source of food, you can be sure it will make a return visit when it’s time for the next meal.
If you choose to feed the critters that visit your backyard, you will also have to deal with the problems they may cause, such as destroying your garden or attacking your small children or pets. Despite your best intentions, inappropriate feeding could even do harm to the animal.
As an animal control professional, I’ve experienced many situations where what begins as a simple act of kindness — feeding a hungry animal that’s searching for a meal — turns into a nightmare for a property owner. If you decide to feed your uninvited dinner guest, there are a few “do’s” and “don’ts” to consider.
- Place the food in an animal-specific feeder and clean it frequently to limit the threat of contamination.
- Cut back on the amount of food during the warmer months when natural food sources are more plentiful.
- Create a habitat or sanctuary that will keep the animals in a centralized location instead of wandering across your property.
- Beware of over-crowding, which can lead to competition, causing aggressive behavior between animals vying for food.
- If you notice an animal acting strangely or aggressively, contact your local animal control professional immediately.
- Avoid giving animals “people food” as this can deprive them of essential nutrients or lead to illness.
- Don’t attempt to touch or befriend the animals while feeding — wild animals are unpredictable, and they could interpret your gesture as an act of aggression.
- Don’t leave your trash uncovered or place your pet’s food outside, as this can entice the animals away from the desired feeding zones and into area on your property you don’t want them to visit.
- Don’t place the food in containers with narrow tops, such as glass jars. The animal could get its head stuck inside the container and suffocate.
- Avoid hand-feeding the animals, as this can lead to injury or disease.
Caution is the Key Word
It’s important to remember that once you’ve made the decision to feed wild animals, they will now view you as a food source and may even lose their natural fear of you. If you are feeding larger animals, this could pose a threat to you and your family. While feeding wildlife on your property can be a beneficial experience for you as well as the animals, be sure to exercise caution at all times.