The other day I received this comment on my duck food post:
‘Except in the case of extreme environmental disruptions, don’t feed wild animals. They don’t need the food. Stop feeding the ducks and other water birds, and watch them up close as they feed on insects and grasses on the margin of a pond, lagoon, canal, etc.’
At first I felt terribly guilty because the person writing the comment is, in my opinion, in the right. I do believe the best solution for wildlife is not to feed them at all and to admire them in their natural environment.
I thought about it some more.
Can we expect people to never feed wildlife? Should I be preaching the don’t feed wildlife under any circumstances message? Is feeding wildlife really that bad? What kind of life would it be if our children weren’t allowed to interact and feed wild animals? I started to think of the arguments for and against feeding wildlife.
To not feed
- Interact without feeding. There are ways to interact with wildlife without using food. You can create a garden full of natural foods for wildlife so as to encourage them into your yard and watch them forage naturally. You can spend time searching for or watching wildlife in your backyard or community. You can visit your local zoo, which allows you to connect with animals that have been conditioned to be fed and touched by people.
- Is feeding wildlife that bad? If not fed the right way, you could be causing more harm than good. Examples include overfeeding animals to the point where they forget to forage naturally or feeding food that isn’t good for them and doesn’t give them the necessary vitamins and minerals they require in their diet. Sometimes feeding animals can cause negative interactions with humans. Think of the dingo and even kangaroo attacks that have occurred from wild animals expecting food off of us.
To feed wildlife:
- Can we expect people to never feed wildlife? Many people, who are passionate about saving wildlife, are just as guilty for having fed ducks and other wild animals when they were young. They may still do it. It is this interaction and the connection they receive with the animal that drives their passion and encourages them to act for wildlife.
- To preach or not to preach. Preaching to people may not stop them from feeding wild animals. We can, however educate them about the best way to feed and interact with wildlife (see below for examples).
- Connecting children and nature. There is a school of thought that believes it is vital, both to the wellbeing of our children and to raising the conservationists of the future, that children interact with nature. For more information check out The Nature Principle by Richard Louv http://richardlouv.com
It’s up to you
As you can see, I don’t have a definitive answer. There are plenty of reasons both for and against feeding wildlife and I think both have worthy arguments. We all want to do what’s best for wildlife. As parents, teachers and environmental educators, it is up to you to make your own decisions on this topic.
If you decide that you don’t need to feed wildlife to get that connection with them, that’s great. But if you decide feeding wildlife is okay you should:
- Ensure you and your children are going to be safe while feeding the wild animal
- Ask yourself if this could cause a problem for the animal or for the safety of your family in future
- Feed them food that would be similar to their natural diet
- Ensure you only feed them a small amount on an irregular basis so they still retain the skills to forage
In regards to the duck food, in my opinion, the benefits of taking a child to feed a small amount of this relatively healthy recipe on an occasional basis is more beneficial to the child and to the future of conservation than it is detrimental to the ducks in question. Wildlife Fun 4 Kids aims to give parents a list of activities to encourage them to share nature with their children. I decided I couldn’t tell people to not feed the ducks but I knew I could provide a better option than bread, so I posted it.
So, what do you think? Should I preaching the do not feed wildlife message or should I be leaving it up to you guys to make your (now more educated) decision?