by Jennifer Howard
I know during the winter months, we all feel that wildlife needs our help. But these animals were born wild and it’s imperative they stay wild and don’t get tamed by people feeding them. I have many stories on animals that have been fed, however I’m going to focus on the most recent. A lady in Ajax contacted me, a friend of my brothers. She had a deer show up on her property. She was very concerned as this was not normal. Their home backs onto a lovely property with trees and trails. He stayed at the back nibbling on trees which is what they do in winter at first. He looked healthy, but she felt concerned. He left but had clearly bedded down one night in her yard. When he returned a couple of days later, she took photos of him looking in her windows, and he didn’t want to leave.
photos supplied by Jill Maria.
As much as you hate to, I told her to chase him off as he was looking for handouts. Someone was feeding him. Deer don’t come that close unless they have been fed. And like all wild animals, if you feed them, they lose their wildness and fear of humans; they need that wildness and healthy fear of us to survive. Can you imagine a tame deer out there amongst hunters, near roads, or entering a place with dogs, no fear of any of the above, because they have been fed and now trust all? The thought is horrific. It doesn’t stand a chance. You’re not being kind. This deer was a beautiful, healthy-looking animal.
A few days later, he was found dead on a trail (photo supplied by Vince.) Feeding deer never goes well during winter when you think they need help. They know how to feed and what to feed on. Their system adjusts to their winter-feeding routines and foods available to them. They have a very sensitive digestive system. And being fed by people can actually kill them. Do not feed. Aside from losing their fear of people, they are now open to predators too.
Deer are incredible animals but if tamed it’s hard to break them of that. You need to chase them away and make them understand we are not all friendly and they are wild. Stamping your feet, clapping hands, car horns, flapping a green garbage bag. It’s for their own good to do this. It can be life or death for them.
Feeding deer can cause a condition called Acute Rumen Acidosis. Deer are ruminants; a deer’s stomach is like a cow’s or goat’s stomach in which they have four chambers. The first chamber is called Rumen. Acute Rumen Acidosis is a rapid drop of the pH in the Rumen that will cause the deer to become very ill when too many nutrient-rich foods are consumed in a short period of time. It often causes death – a horrible loss of a beautiful innocent life. This is only one of many sad stories of feeding wildlife going wrong.
Many diseases can also be spread from sick to healthy animals by feeding. Where you have no control over who you attract. Examples of these diseases are mange, distemper, and raccoon roundworm.
Keep your ground clean under bird feeders as mentioned earlier, and let our wildlife do their own hunting.
Learn to coexist with our wildlife, respect them and their space and let them be wild. Watch them from a distance and learn from them. They are amazing teachers.