Feeding Wildlife May Actually Hurt Them

Young raccoons (Ohio DNR photo by Jerry Wilder)

Young raccoons (Ohio DNR photo by Jerry Wilder)

Question: I have a question about feeding raccoons. My good-intentioned neighbor puts large pans of dog food out every night for the raccoons. We live in a very close community and the raccoons keep me awake at night with sounds of their fighting over food. They also venture onto my patio to cause more commotion and damage. I’ve tried everything to discourage their visits – ammonia-soaked rags, cayenne pepper, lights, etc. Nothing works.

I’ve tried to talk to my neighbor, telling her it’s not good for wildlife to be fed by an unnatural food source, but she turns a deaf ear. Are there laws against feeding wildlife? Is there any other advice you can give me? (Anonymous)

Answer: While feeding wildlife makes those people doing so feel good, in the long run it is often to the detriment of the animal recipients. Although many animals will eat offered food, temporarily satisfying their hunger, in reality, many human foods lack the protein and nutritional components animals need for good health.

So, although your neighbor may be well-intentioned, she’s actually hurting the wildlife and her neighbors by encouraging wild animals to get too comfortable around humans. When animals concentrate around food, they are more likely to spread diseases to each other and to domestic pets. When wild animals lose their natural fear of humans, they can become very aggressive. Coyotes, in particular, are well-known for eating small pets because they do not differentiate between the food you leave for them and other prey items, like dogs and cats.

People often think they are just feeding cute, furry critters. But if they were to put a surveillance camera out, they would likely be surprised to find out what’s actually eating the food at night. They would probably be appalled to discover animals fighting over the food, and that they’re actually keeping the neighborhood rats fat and happy.

By feeding wildlife, your neighbor may be disrupting the animals’ normal behavior patterns in violation of California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 14, section 251.1. There may also be a local ordinance that bans feeding of some wild animals. Los Angeles County, for example, has an ordinance that prohibits feeding of “non-domesticated mammalian predators, including but not limited to, coyotes, raccoons, foxes and opossums.”

Feeding raccoons also presents a real human health risk. Raccoons are frequent carriers of a potentially fatal human pathogen, raccoon roundworm, Baylisascaris procyonis. This roundworm is transmitted through contact with the feces of raccoons and has caused fatalities in humans, including toddlers who will put raccoon feces in their mouths.

For more information, please go to: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/discond/Documents/RaccoonRoundworms.pdf.


Using trout for bait?
Question: Can you please clarify whether trout can be used in California inland waters as bait? (Andrew G.)

Answer: Trout may not be used for bait. Statewide bait-fish regulations for all inland fishing districts begin with, “Except as provided below, live or dead fin fish shall not be used or possessed for use as bait . . .” (CCR Title 14, sections 4.00-4.30.) Therefore, if the species is not specifically authorized in that section, it may not be used for bait. Even though trout are not specifically prohibited from being use as bait in the law, neither are they specifically authorized, and are therefore included in the general prohibition against using (any) live or dead finfish.

In addition, there are only two districts (Valley and South Central) where any species of finfish that is lawfully taken may be used for bait. However, trout and salmon are specifically excluded (CCR Title 14, section 4.20(d)). This is the provision that authorizes the use of bluegill for taking striped bass in the Delta.


How often to check hoop nets?
Question: When fishing my hoop nets in the river or ocean, how often do I need to check them?

Answer:  Hoop nets are required to be checked at intervals not to exceed two hours (CCR Title 14, section 29.80). The owner of the hoop net or the person who placed the hoop net into the water must raise the hoop net to the surface and inspect the contents of the hoop net at intervals not to exceed two hours (CCR Title14, section 29.80(b)). Any hoop net abandoned or left unchecked for more than two hours may be considered abandoned and may be seized by any person authorized to enforce these regulations.


Picking up antler sheds?
Question: Is it illegal in California to pick up antlers found in the wild? I see it is legal in every other state pretty much as long as you are not harassing the wildlife or trespassing. I have no intention of selling them or using them in a harmful way. I just want a little decoration around the house. (Kristian D.)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to collect antlers that have been naturally shed or dropped by deer or elk in California. However, be sure to check local regulations because some areas (e.g. most parks) do not allow collecting of sheds in areas under their jurisdiction.

# # #

Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Please do not reply to this e-mail. DFGNews@wildlife.ca.gov is for outgoing messages only and is not checked for incoming mail. For questions about this News Release, contact the individual(s) listed above. Thank you.

One response to “Feeding Wildlife May Actually Hurt Them

  1. while feeding wildlife makes those people doing so feel good, in the long run it is often to the detriment of the animal recipients this is great article.

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