Feeding Human Food to Wildlife?

When people feed wildlife it is usually to the detriment of the animals. The wildlife soon lose their fear of humans, forage less for their natural food sources, and most human foods (such as bread) lack the protein and nutritional components the animals require to maintain good health.(Photo: DFG file photo)

Question: We have a neighbor who feeds wildlife three-day-old bread on a regular basis. The wildlife consists of deer, turkey, birds and other mammals. Although this neighbor has been told that this is not good for the animals, she continues. What can be done? (Steve S.)

Answer: While feeding human food to 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 stale bread when offered, temporarily satisfying their hunger, in reality, many human foods – especially bread – lack the protein and nutritional components animals need for good health.

According to our Keep Me Wild campaign coordinator, Lorna Bernard, “Although your neighbor may be well-intentioned, she is actually being very selfish. She’s 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, like squirrels and raccoons. 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.

In addition, there may 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.”

Regarding deer, there is a statewide ban on feeding big game, which includes deer, bear, elk, antelope and bighorn sheep (Section 251.3, Title 14, CCR). You may want to contact a local game warden to report your well-meaning but stubborn and misguided neighbor. Her actions may cause her to be guilty of a misdemeanor, which may carry fines or even jail time.

For more tips on preventing wildlife-human conflicts, visit www.keepmewild.org.


What is Considered “Selling of Fish”?
Question: What if four people got together and all paid the boat fare so that one person in the group could take a long range fishing trip? Three of the people are not fisherpersons. After the trip, all of the fish caught by the one angler would then be split evenly between the four people. Would this be considered selling of fish? (Doug S., Montebello)

Answer: Fish caught under the authority of a sport fishing license may not be bought, sold, traded or bartered (FGC Section 7121). This means that if these people all helped pay the fare for another person to take a fishing trip with the expectation of receiving some of the fish caught back in return, that would be illegal. Anglers who lawfully catch fish may always give fish away to whomever they wish, but it is not legal for non-anglers to pay for another person’s trip with the understanding or expectation of receiving fish in return for that money.


Donating and Raffling-Off Bear Skin Rugs, Legal?
Question: One of our club members was cleaning out his home recently and came upon a grizzly bear skin rug he has had for many years. He would like to donate it to our club. We want to be sure this is alright, and second, would we need something in writing from him indicating that it is a donation to the club? If, in the future, we want to include this rug in a raffle, can we do so? We aren’t certain if there are restrictions regarding this type of bear hide. Thank you for your help with this matter. (Bonnie V.D.)

Answer: The donation of the bear-skin rug to your club is not a problem, however, it would be illegal for the club to offer it as a “prize” in a raffle (e.g. the person who holds the winning ticket “exchanges or trades” it for the rug).

According to retired Capt. Phil Nelms, the exchange of the rug for a winning ticket is prohibited by Fish and Game laws that prohibit the sale of any part of any bear and defines sale to include “exchange or trade.”
Grizzly bears are also protected by federal laws. Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for information regarding what, if any, federal laws may apply. They can be reached online at http://www.fws.gov.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

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