Are You An Animal Lover

Do Not Feed Wildlife Girl Feeding Deer B. Roanhorse BBR
Please do not feed wildlife.

Illustration by Brian B. Roanhorse 2014.

Do Not Feed Wildlife 2016
Do Not Feed Wildlife

One of the experiences people treasure when visiting Bryce Canyon and other National Parks is the opportunity to view wild animals in their natural habitats. And so it is often with the best intentions, be it gratitude, curiosity, or just plain friendship, that park visitors wish to offer wildlife something in return, rationalizing that "feeding wild animals doesn't really do any harm."

Feeding wildlife is actually a form of animal cruelty. Animals that are fed by humans learn to frequent roadsides and parking lots, dramatically increasing their chances of being run over by a careless motorist. Most animals have very specific natural diets and therefore specific kinds of digestive bacteria. Being fed human food causes the wrong type of bacteria to become dominant in their stomachs. Soon these animals are no longer able to digest their natural foods. They end up starving to death with stomachs full of what they should have been eating all along. What could be more cruel?

Fed animals also pose a threat to humans. Feeding rodents is especially dangerous because they can transmit diseases deadly to humans, such as Bubonic Plague and Hantavirus. Simply putting yourself within flea-jumping distance (up to 10 feet or 3 meters) of a rodent puts you at risk of contracting one of these diseases. Furthermore, the majority of Bryce Canyon visitors who suffer rodent bites report that they weren't even offering the animal any food--they were simply extending an empty outstretched hand to lure the animal closer. But because the rodent is so accustomed to a piece of food being at the end of an outstretched hand, they often bite the hand thinking it's food.

Normally docile animals that become accustomed to being fed lose their respect/natural wariness for people and can become dangerously aggressive. A young mule deer buck gored and killed a small child in Yosemite when the boy refused to relinquish his sandwich to the deer. Even though he was doing the right thing, that child died a cruel senseless death because too many people mistakenly thought, "feeding wild animals doesn't really do any harm."

Please be a true friend of wildlife and keep your food and fingers to yourself.

Last updated: April 25, 2016

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