‘Fed wildlife is dead wildlife’

by Peter Josephson

It's never a win for animals when humans feed them. Feeding wildlife always ends poorly for the animal in the long term.

Those are the words of Hope Swinimer, founder of Hope for Wildlife.

Wanda Baxter, Program Manager for Watch for Wildlife, is blunter.

"Fed wildlife is dead wildlife."

These remarks were sparked when Swinimer and Baxter learned that people are feeding foxes in a den in the Crescent Beach sand dunes.

"It is so important to let wild animals be wild," Baxter said. "We think we are being kind or helpful when we feed wildlife, but we are actually training them to be dependent and trusting of humans, which they shouldn't be."

Baxter and Swinimer agree that feeding wild animals creates a number of problems.

Wild animals are hunters and the young must learn to hunt from the adults. If, as is the case at Crescent Beach, the young are fed a diet of dog food they may never learn to hunt and are likely to die an early death. As well, human food may not constitute a healthy diet for a wild animal.

The animals become comfortable around humans. Once they cease to be wary they are much more susceptible to the dangers posed by human activity. The foxes on Crescent Beach are a case in point. When they are approached they show no fear. The adults and the kits are often seen wandering in the road oblivious to the traffic.

Baxter also notes that wild animals that are treated as "pets" can eventually become a threat to humans.

"Wildlife that are fed by humans learn very quickly that humans are a source of food. They often become a 'nuisance'-sticking around houses too much, or digging in garbage, or predating on pets. They may need to be moved or killed by the Department of Lands and Forestry."

Bruce Nunn, spokesperson for he Department of Lands and Forestry, concurs with Baxter and Swinimer and adds that "leaving food for wildlife increases the potential to pass wildlife diseases to domestic pets. Our department actively discourages the feeding of wildlife."

Baxter has this advice for those who want to enjoy the wildlife around us: "The best thing we can do to help wildlife is to give them room to grow, keep your distance and watch for them on the roads, and let them be wild."

Michael Robb, Chair Friends Of Crescent Beach, Green Bay and Area, said that his group has erected signs advising visitors to the beach to do just that.

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