On warm spring days, many people like to go to local parks and feed wild animals, such as squirrels and birds. While people generally have good intentions, this can actually be harmful to wildlife.
Most food that humans typically feed to wild animals does not have the nutrients they need to be healthy. Some human food can even be harmful. For example, white bread, crackers, and popcorn can cause a deformity called “angel wing” in waterfowl, such as swans, ducks, and geese.
Feeding wild animals can make them lose their natural fear of humans. If potentially dangerous animals become comfortable in residential areas or places with lots of people, they can become a nuisance or create safety risks.
Feeding animals from or near vehicles can also create safety hazards. Animals can be hit by cars or may try to enter vehicles to get food from people.
When wild animals gather to get food from people, they can fight and injure each other. This can also lead to the spread of diseases, which can be transmitted to people or pets.
Take steps to avoid unintentionally providing food for wild animals that may be unhealthy for them. Rinse recyclable containers to remove traces of food and odors. Some animals can get their heads stuck in bottles and plastic containers and starve to death. Cut or crush plastic containers to prevent this. If you buy six packs of beverages, cut the plastic rings to prevent choking. Feed your pets inside your house. Rinse plastic food wrap and put it in a tied bag or garbage can with a secure lid. If you visit a park, clean up after yourself.
If you want to feed birds at a park, look for bird feed or waterfowl pellets at a feed store. You can offer wild animals other healthy foods, such as shredded kale, romaine lettuce, or Swiss chard; seedless grapes cut in half; or grains such as oats, wheat, and barley. Any foods you give animals should be bite-sized to prevent choking.
If you want to feed birds and squirrels in your backyard, set up a feeder. Do not try to feed them by hand. You can also plant bushes, flowers, or trees that can serve as natural food sources.