Feeding Wildlife: A Bad Idea 50 Years Ago, A Bad Idea Now

In a park lodge in West Virginia, a restaurant employee is bitten by a young raccoon near the restaurant’s pantry. The raccoon and his littermates are later trapped and killed to protect the public. Elsewhere, in Big Pine Key, Florida, an endangered female key deer casually steps onto a two-lane road to seek handouts from a young couple idling in a convertible. Further down the same road, a brown plastic sign informs drivers the number of key deer who have been struck by motorists that year. Far away in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in Montana, a black bear tears into a tent and mauls the man inside. The man survives, if only due to the quick response of forest service employees who heard his screams. The 185-pound male black bear is later tracked and killed. The resulting investigation reveals that the bear was not “born vicious,” but had been fed by humans to such an extent that he had learned to approach people when he felt hungry.

Each of these stories is true, and many like them occur regularly throughout the United States. Though different parks and animals are involved, each story has a common component; every animal in every situation had learned to associate humans with food. With the possible exception of well-managed birdfeeders, feeding wildlife poses an extreme risk to both wildlife and humans. For this reason, we strongly feel that humans should never feed wild animals.

When humans feed wildlife, the ...


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