Ranger Kathryn's Arches

July 18, 2012

Feeding the wildlife?!? Really?!?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:42 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

This BRONZE raven pair is getting “fed” a macadamia nut — a spoof by Ranger Kathryn.

There are some things that really irk park rangers — typically encompassing behaviors that everyone knows are inappropriate, yet which continue to happen. Graffiti comes to mind as an intentional destructive act that disrupts natural beauty and creates extra work for the rangers who must remove it. Its perpetrators do not stop to think of the lasting damage as they carve their initials (or, for lunacy bonus points, their full name) into a tree trunk or rock face. Graffiti bothers me on a visceral level because it so rudely invades my wilderness experience.

Today, however, we’re going for something more subtle — more excusable, according to its practitioners. It involves human food given to vertebrate recipients. Guilt-assuaging deceptive thoughts like “It won’t hurt a thing,” “I hate wasting food,” “Just this once,” “He looks hungry,” “It’s only a photo op,” or “It’s the kind of food he’d eat in nature” pave the way down this slippery slope.

I doubt I’ll talk any readers out of feeding wildlife. It seems that many people feel entitled to give a squirrel a nut, or toss a french fry to a seagull. PLEASE DON’T. Here’s why:

1. It’s illegal in many places (and all national parks/monuments) to feed wildlife.

2. Wild animals have specialized diets and can die from the wrong foods.

3. Feeding causes wildlife to lose their natural fear of humans. (Rangers at the Grand Canyon say the constantly-fed squirrels are their most dangerous wildlife.)

4. Providing an artificial food source can cause adults to produce large families which the natural food supply can’t support.

5. You always risk injury when you do not keep a respectful distance from animals who may misinterpret your actions.

6. Feeding changes behavior patterns. (Opportunists become lazy.)

I’ve an idea what you can do instead: create natural habitat that invites animals to live closer to you. Plant trees or shrubs for cover. Set out a birdbath. Add butterfly- or hummingbird-attracting flowers to your garden. And keep a pair of binoculars near the window; wildlife is best observed on their own terms.


[Note: outside the Arches NP visitor center you can photograph yourself with lifelike bronze bighorn sheep ram/ewe/lamb, bronze ravens, and bronze lizards. Fun for the entire family!]


Thanks to ‘Wildlife Care of Ventura County’ for some of the ideas listed above.


  1. I agree, I agree, I totally agree………it just seems soooooo ironic that graffiti is so frowned upon in parks that have such incredible “graffiti” ie petroglyphs, pictographs. Its just a matter of time when todays grafiti will be in a few centurys something that people flock to see.

    Comment by David Richardson — July 18, 2012 @ 5:05 pm | Reply

    • You’re joking, right?

      Comment by Ron Carroll — July 18, 2012 @ 7:52 pm | Reply

    • “LUCAS 2011” is graffiti, not artwork, and can’t be compared with pictographs and petroglyphs. While your comment is indeed true that > 50-year-old writings (or objects, such as cowboy camps with rusty tin cans) are protected by law, I assure you that nobody is going to flock to see a bunch of teenagers’ initials selfishly etched onto a boulder.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — July 18, 2012 @ 10:35 pm | Reply

  2. I try to discourage folks from feeding wildlife as well, but I have to admit reason #1 sounds a little, well, bureaucratic. It’s like telling folks not to drive over the speed limit; they’re still going to do it. Reasons 2-6 are the real reasons, and they’re the ones that might actually change people’s behavior, vis-a-vis feeding the animals. I think we make more progress when we try to educate people. Invoking “rules” doesn’t work too effectively.

    Comment by Ron Carroll — July 18, 2012 @ 7:50 pm | Reply

    • Couldn’t agree with you more, and should have moved that one to the end of the list. I don’t want well-meaning visitors to get a citation for feeding animals…

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — July 18, 2012 @ 10:28 pm | Reply

  3. PS — I discourage folks from feeding animals at the zoo too.

    Comment by Ron Carroll — July 18, 2012 @ 7:52 pm | Reply

  4. Reblogged this on Corey Miller Diary.

    Comment by bxcretpomgtano1987 — September 9, 2012 @ 6:21 am | Reply

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