Last updated: December 1, 2023
Oh, look at that cute squirrel! He’s coming closer...giving him a little snack couldn’t hurt, right? Wrong. While a squirrel might look cute munching on our trail mix – feeding wild animals hurts them.
It's not just a few peanuts
You may have the best intentions when you want to share your trail mix with a critter in a park but feeding wildlife is dangerous.
Human foods are not healthy for wild animals. Animals that eat our snacks can get full off the wrong foods and stop eating the nutrients they need to survive. They can stop hunting, foraging, or scavenging as they would naturally. They literally want to get chips or die trying.
Depending on humans for food is called food conditioning. Food conditioning is dangerous for animals because it can lead to serious consequences like getting sick, starving, or even having to be killed if they become too aggressive. Animals can lose their fear of people when they get used to eating our food. They may beg, steal, or even rip into your backpack or tent if you don’t give it to them. Because they approach you (and because they’re so cute!) people might think the animals are tame like our pets at home, but they are still wild creatures. If the animal feels threatened for any reason, it could bite, kick, charge, or attack you.
Let them stick to their natural diet. Feeding wildlife isn’t safe for the animals or for you. Learn more about the risks to wildlife from people.
What You Can Do
Be a smart wildlife watcher and help keep wildlife wild.
- Never feed the wildlife.
- Store your food and stash your trash. You may unintentionally feed wildlife by leaving trash or crumbs behind. Be sure to clean up after yourself after meals and practice Leave No Trace principles.
- Give the animals room. Always keep a safe distance when watching wildlife. Check with our park for minimum distances.
- Want more wildlife viewing tips? Learn the 7 ways to safely watch wildlife.
Pass It On!
Did you learn something new? Pass it on! Protecting our parks and the wildlife in them is a job for us all, but there’s no way for everyone to be an expect in everything. That’s why sharing knowledge is so important! The next time you see a fellow animal lover thinking of showing their affection by sharing their snacks, you can fill them in and assure them it’s ok to admit - “I didn’t know that!”
Download or screenshot this card to share with a friend or help you remember why not feeding wildlife is so important. Thank you for helping to keep wildlife wild!
Text Description for the I Didn't Know That! Don't feed wildlife Graphic
- It's not just a snack. Feeding wildlife is dangerous for the animals and for you.
- There are risks to people. Animals that rely on human foods can become aggressive.
- There are risks to wildlife. Animals that rely on human foods can stop naturally hunting or foraging and starve.
- You can help keep wildlife wild.
- Never feed wildlife.
- Clean up and leave no trace.
- Keep your distance.