Department of Environmental Conservation

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Do Not Feed Wildlife

deer congregated at a feeding area and an injured deer
As deer congregate, diseases like Chronic
Wasting Disease become more prevalent.
Photo by Jeremy Hurst.

Numerous problems arise when we feed wildlife. The intention may be to have a closer encounter with wildlife, to help animals in the winter, or to increase the number of available game animals. However, feeding wildlife interferes with a natural healthy balance between wildlife populations and their habitat.

Why Feeding Wildlife Does More Harm than Good

A Threat to Human and Animal Safety

As wild animals are fed they become used to the presence of people. Animals like coyotes and black bears can become a potential threat and can harm both humans and pets. Additionally, more vehicle collisions may occur as deer are drawn closer to roads nearby homes.

Wildlife Overabundance

An overabundance of wildlife damages natural habitat and creates nuisance issues with humans. For example, overabundant deer populations can result in increased damage to natural forest habitat from over browsing, agricultural crop loss, and automobile collisions. Deer can cause damage to gardens and landscape plants. Bears and raccoons raid garbage and pet food. Abundant geese and other waterfowl lead to increased droppings.

Increased Risk of Disease Spread

In the wild, animals naturally disperse across the landscape. However, food promotes the concentration of animals into a small area. This increases the potential for diseases to spread. Food gets contaminated with feces, saliva, and urine, which easily harbor infectious disease-causing micro-organisms like bacteria, viruses, prions, or fungi. Once introduced, animal diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease in deer are difficult to eliminate and some can be transmitted to humans (zoonosis).

mallard ducks feeding and a sign to stop wildlife feeding
Waterfowl like ducks and geese may willfully eat
humans foods like crackers, bread, and popcorn.
However, these items have little nutritional value
and are poor substitutes for their natural foods.
Malnutrition in Wildlife

Human foods do not offer a healthy diet for animals. When wildlife become reliant on the food source at hand, they stop feeding on the variety of natural foods they need in their diet for proper nutrients. Feeding the wrong diet to a newborn animal can cause permanent damage to developing muscles, bones and tissues. Young wildlife may not learn to feed normally, which decreases its chance of survival. Plastics and other waste from raided garbage bags are also harmful to animals.

Unnatural Behavior of Wildlife

Animals that become reliant on an abundant year-round food source may not migrate during the normal time of year. Fed animals also become more aggressive towards each other and towards humans as they lose wariness. This results in animals becoming devalued and losing the quality that most people like about wildlife - their "wildness."

Wildlife Feeding is Illegal for Deer, Bear, and Moose in New York State

To take action against many of these issues, DEC has implemented rules and regulations that prohibit the intentional and unintentional feeding for several species of wildlife, including: deer and moose feeding regulations and bear feeding regulations (leaves DEC website).

"Feeding Wildlife...Just Say No!"- Order this 34-page booklet produced by the Wildlife Management Institute that discusses the many issues related to feeding wildlife (leaves DEC website).