Good Intentions Gone Bad
Metroparks visitors mean well when they bring food for wildlife. They think they're doing wildlife a favor, helping them survive and to live the good life. And they feel good about themselves as Good Samaritans, helping animals less fortunate.
What seems to be a good thing isn't at all. Feeding the wildlife by park visitors is, in general, harmful to the health of both wildlife and park visitors.
- Download these tips in the form a brochure by clicking on the PDF in the left column of this page.
How Can That Be?
The problem begins with what visitors are feeding. Popcorn and bread are typical offerings, and both are low in the nutrition wildlife needs. By filling their stomachs with "junk" food, they're not getting the nutrition they need, nutrition they could easily find in the plentiful wild foods in the Metroparks.
In times of extreme hardship, such as extended severe cold or when natural food sources are covered by ice and snow, feeding junk foods can actually be a death sentence to the very animals visitors are trying to assist. They'll forego the foods they need to survive in favor of the easy junk food pickings.
Is there enough food in the wild?
Sure there is. Fruits, seeds and other natural foods are plentiful in protected natural forests, prairies and meadows such as those found in the Metroparks.
Is feeding nutritious foods okay?
Feeding more nutritious foods like peanuts and sunflower seeds is better, but it's still not okay. Feeding wildlife concentrates species and the resulting overcrowding can promote the spread of disease. It can encourage waterfowl to resist natural instincts to migrate and become dependent species.
Feeding also breaks down wildlife's natural survival instincts. In losing fear of people, wildlife can become beggars, fearlessly approaching people, pets or cars. Visitors have been bitten, deer have been encouraged to wander into the path of cars, and visitors have been exposed at close range to raccoons and other mammals potentially carrying rabies or other diseases. Both wildlife and visitors can be placed in jeopardy.
But I love wildlife and want to help.
And Metroparks is glad you do. But the challenge is to enjoy wildlife in a manner that's healthy for both animals and visitors.
Visit Metroparks in the morning and evening, times when wildlife is most active along the trails. Participate in Metroparks nature walks and programs geared for viewing and discovering wildlife. Be more observant on your walks, keep noise to a minimum, bring along a pair of binoculars to bring wildlife up close.
If you want to help wildlife, consider donating to Metroparks to preserve natural habitats, wild places, animal homes. Or help maintain and supply the Windows on Wildlife by supplying bird seed, pond maintenance or contributions to purchase supplies.
Doesn't Metroparks feed wildlife?
We do feed wildlife under controlled conditions in the Windows on Wildlife provided in many Metroparks. Included in the feeding regimen is a routine of cleaning and sanitizing feeders to minimize the risk of spreading disease.
They're excellent places to safely watch and learn about local wildlife. You get a close-up seat indoors, safely separated from park wildlife as it comes and goes at carefully designed feeding stations. Because there's no direct visitor/wildlife interaction, wildlife is free to visit and partake of nutritious foods without breaking down their natural fear of humans.
Should I Feed Wildlife At Home?
That's up to you, but if you're going to do it, we encourage you to do it well. Wildlife feeding stations that are designed to meet wildlife's needs for food, water and shelter can be both rewarding and beneficial. Use the Metroparks Windows on Wildlife as models for designing your own backyard wildlife stations. Feel free to call our program staff at 419-407-9701.
IT'S THE LAW
Metroparks regulations prohibit the feeding of wildlife by park visitors. While Metroparks staff would prefer to solve the feeding problem with education and understanding, rangers are empowered to use their judgement in citing violators.