By Victoria Taylor Sluder, Western District Interpretive Services Supervisor
The Metroparks offers some unique opportunities to see wildlife! Viewing them up close can be a thrilling experience so you may be tempted to draw them as close as possible to yourself with food. But it is important to refrain from doing so. The top four reasons to resist that urge and keeping your distance are:
- Animals that get used to being fed by people will associate any person with easy meals. This can make them act aggressively. Even seemingly non-threatening animals like chipmunks can attack people that they believe to be a source of food.
- Wild animals may bite the hand that feeds them, and these bites could lead to infections or other serious medical problems.
- Unnatural food will make wild animals sick. Many human snacks can be toxic. People likely aren’t handing out these items to kill animals, but, unfortunately that is often the result.
- Teaching wildlife to panhandle for food also teaches them to be nuisances. Since nuisance animals don’t unlearn these habits easily, they may have to be euthanized.
- Feeding wildlife peanuts and other types of nuts, can hurt other park visitors. People with nut allergies are coming into contact with nuts in unexpected places like on trails, tables and other surfaces causing health issues.
So, is it ever possible to safely enjoy feeding wildlife? A visit to your Metroparks Nature Centers is a great option. Most offer viewing windows to watch very active bird and squirrel feeders and some offer food that you can use for specific animals like fish, turtles or chickadees.