Now that it’s May in Rochester, many of the animals that weren’t as visible over the winter are starting to be seen again. These include ducks, groundhogs, foxes, and opossums. While these animals are cute, I would advise against feeding them. In short, feeding wild animals can disrupt not only their behaviors, but the ecosystem and environment as a whole.
Take ducks, for example. There is a popular association between ducks and bread. However, in reality, bread has little nutritional value for the ducks, and can actually harm the birds’ growth and digestive tract. This is a common trend among feeding wildlife human food: that food is made for us humans, not other animals, whose effects of eating it aren’t always clear or easily understood.
Moreover, wild animals do not need human food to survive. When we feed local wildlife at the park, lake, etc., we are teaching them to become dependent on food which is not available in their natural habitat. Put simply, wild animals are capable of finding their own food, and we do not want to promote “learned helplessness” as an unintended consequence of giving a cute animal a bite to eat.
If animals become aware that a particular spot carries with it an abundance of food, naturally, that area will start to become more crowded. Overcrowding is a serious concern for any species, as it can lead to aggressiveness, environmental degradation, and even public health concerns regarding animal waste and zoonotic disease transmission.
The next time you see a cute animal, enjoy it from a distance. Take pictures, admire their presence, but please, refrain from the urge to feed them. You are doing nature a service by not feeding wildlife.
Written by Dax Emerson, Class of 2021
Photo by Nikolay Tchauochev on Unsplash