Please Don’t Feed the Animals

Traveling brings you to places where your normal urges (like feeding animals) come in direct conflict with local ordinances and common sense. Forget about your love for animals, wanting to get close to nature or watch those cute little things eagerly pick up the morsels you’ve tossed to them.

Okay, now a major dose of reality and it’s a medicine you may not take to easily and you may have even wondered about this headline. No, I don’t dislike animals and I, too, have enjoyed feeding animals, but within certain parameters.

Today, I heard about a viral video where a polar bear was petting a dog. Too cute polar-bearfor words, right? No. It did not have a happy ending as anyone who understands wild, hungry animals will tell you. And polar bears are currently experiencing a very long period of privation due to lack of food.

The people in the area had been feeding polar bears and, one night, didn’t put food out. You know the rest of the story and how it ended for the sled dog.

Hearing about it, I remembered the sign I first came across on a trip to Florida a few years ago: “Please don’t feed the gators, we love our children.” And Florida has followed that simple sign up with stiff fines for anyone who feeds gators that just love kids, dogs and anything they can get their huge mouths around.

Tourists taken out on boats to watch wild sea life have encouraged the forging of another “nature” tour of sorts; shark watching or swimming with sharks. How do they know there will be sharks? Simple. The tour guides chum the waters with bloody fish parts and the sharks come zooming in for a free meal. If a sharktourist was to fall overboard, I don’t think that would have a happy ending, either. Sharks are not “gentle giants” and whenever I see that term, I just get sick to my stomach.  But people do love their “shark adventures.”

Chumming leads to a steady supply of hungry sharks and in the Amazon, thoughtless disposal of fish parts into the river resulted in attracting large numbers of hungry fish, not sharks mind you. But one mystery in the area puzzled people for years.

A commuter boat with nearly 100 people on board had sunk and most of the passengers suddenly disappeared from the water, never to be seen again. Reason? One expert believes they were grabbed by large cat-fish, initially attracted by the chum which allowed them to grow to huge size, that dragged the people to their holes and, in the process, drowned them.  They were then finished off by other fish.

No need to go into the wild, either, to see dangerous interactions between people and seemingly tame wild animals. New York’s Central Park, home to raccoons and even coyotes, now has its own problem. Tourists are fascinated by the playful little creatures that beg for food, are too easily acclimated to city life and people and that can turn in an instant into a danger.  Sharp teeth, finger-like paws and lightning speed make for danger, not cuteness. They also might be rabid.

Squirrels are easily trained, too. Make a sound or gesture and offer food and they will come begging for it whenever you, or someone else, shows up in their territory. Again, they’re seen as such innocent creatures that feeding them squirrel-feedingmust be safe. No? The little things have no idea that their nails are like razor blades and distinguishing between a peanut and a finger can often be too much of a challenge for them. Children can then be injured as well as adults who meant no harm, but also had no food for the squirrels.

All of this begs the question of whether we should feed wild animals at all. We are encouraged to put out suet or seed for birds and they do provide us protection from insects and spread seeds. But which birds should we limit our feed to and should we be interfering with nature at all? Tough decision.

Suburban dwellers know full well that feeding even birds can have a major downside and that is that the food attracts bears. No one wants a hungry black black-bearbear hanging around their home and they, too, quickly become acclimated to where food can be found. If the bear has cubs, she is especially dangerous because she wants to protect her cubs and you are danger.

Tossing apples out in the winter for the deer may cause more deer deaths than you know because, as their numbers increase, they begin to cross roadways, leap into front windows of homes and even run into stores. When they are in their rut, they are especially in danger from cars. How many people even know when this occurs in their neighborhood? If you live near a wooded area, you should know.

Final word: Try not to feed wild animals because you will be doing them a favor if you allow them to find their own wild food.