Providing food for wildlife has its pros and cons. Leaving food for small backyard animals during the cold months when food may be scarce is a great way to help maintain wildlife populations. However, you also don’t want to overfeed wild animals, as they will become dependent on people and be less efficient at finding food themselves. You also run the risk of attracting pests into your home. This how-to guide gives some pointers on how to safely provide food to wildlife.
DO feed only small amounts of food
It is recommended that you contain the feed in a designated container, such as a plastic tub, a bird feeder, or DIY bird seed ornament. If you choose to use a plastic container, make sure you clean it frequently to avoid contamination and attracting pests. Make sure the container has a wide enough opening so that an animal does not get stuck while feeding.
DON’T put the food container too close to your house
Most animals prefer quiet areas free from contact with humans and pets. Put your feed container at a safe distance from your home in order to allow animals to feel safe and undisturbed. Make sure you keep your family pets a safe distance from the feeding container.
DO feed natural foods
You can specifically buy feed that is wildlife safe. However, you can also leave out chopped nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and fresh veggies (avoiding starchy vegetables.) Sticking to the most natural foods possible is the safest for your backyard animal friends.
DON’T leave out any “people” food.
Again, natural food is the best. Most wild animals cannot tolerate “people” food. It is best to avoid anything processed. Carbohydrates and foods high in processed sugar are a no-no! Never give anything that is rotting or moldy.
DO feed less during warm seasons
During the warmer months, natural food sources are abundant for wildlife. They really don’t need you provide food for them. If you do continue to feed throughout the year, make sure you cut back on the amount of food available,
DON’T try to hand-feed the animals
Wild animals are just that: wild. They have boundaries that need to be respected, not only for their safety, but for yours as well. Don’t put yourself at risk of injury or disease. You can enjoy watching the wildlife from a safe distance!
DO leave water out
Not only do animals need food, but a water source is just as important. Leave a small bowl of water near the feeding station or purchase a bird bath. Make sure to change the water regularly!
Please have common sense when dealing with wildlife and use caution when following these tips! Trying to feed large and potentially dangerous backyard animals like bear, moose, or coyotes is NOT recommended. If you are concerned about an injured or sick animal, please contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center or animal control.