If you want to help wildlife don’t feed them

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Don't feed wildlife

It’s tough being a wild animal. In Montana, wildlife has to deal with cold, snow and a lack of food during winter. It’s only natural that we humans would like to help out, but that’s a bad idea.

Feeding wildlife can cause all kinds of problems. For one thing, human food isn’t healthy for animals. They have adapted over thousands of years to eat specific foods and can even die from eating the wrong stuff.

Putting out food for wildlife may also make them bunch up. When animals are crowded together there is a greater chance of diseases being spread, so a better chance wildlife can get sick. Crowding animals can also make the environment less healthy for humans.

Another concern is that feeding wildlife can make them used to being around humans, taking away their natural fear. So an animal like a buck deer, with its antlers, can be pretty dangerous if it decides to get mad at a human that it no longer fears.

Scientists studying Moor Macaque monkeys in Indonesia also found that when humans fed the animals along roads the monkeys became less social with their relatives.

“This change can reduce the opportunities for positive interactions, such as grooming one another or resting nearby one another,” said Kristen Morrow, a doctoral student in anthropology at the University of Georgia. “These are important behaviors, because they serve as a foundation for social learning and relationship building that lead to a strong, cohesive community.”

Many years ago people used to feed black bears from their cars in Yellowstone National Park. That was stopped because of the danger to humans and bears. So even though it may seem like you are doing a wild animal a favor by feeding them, try to resist and appreciate their ability to find food on their own.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com

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