How to Help Wildlife this Winter - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Feb 20, 2020

How to Help Wildlife this Winter

When the wind is raging and snow is covering the ground, it’s tempting to try and help the animals that inhabit your community by leaving food out for them to eat. While it’s true that wildlife has a more difficult time finding food during the colder months when there is less vegetation and snowfall covers what is available, feeding wildlife can actually be detrimental to the ecosystem and do more harm than good.

Here are a few reasons why you should avoid feeding wildlife this winter:

One way nature keeps species’ populations healthy is through natural selection. Feeding wildlife can cause overcrowding, which can then lead to disease transfer and animals congregating in herds. This in turn could then lead to them becoming a target for predators. Depending on where you live, these predators could include mountain lions or grizzly bears.

Disease transfer
Putting food out for wildlife means that the animals are no longer looking for food across a wide landscape and, instead, are all congregating in one place. This can cause disease to spread more rapidly. Some diseases, such as Chronic Wasting Disease in deer, are difficult to eliminate once introduced and can even transfer to humans.

Behavior modification
If animals learn that they can come to your home for food, then they may forget to migrate or follow other natural behaviors. Feeding wildlife can also cause animals to become more aggressive toward one another and be less wary of humans, which disrupts the natural order.

Putting wildlife at harm
Feeding wildlife can be dangerous for both humans and animals, especially when the food source is close to a road. Wildlife shouldn’t be drawn toward traffic areas, where they can put themselves in harm and also cause damage to vehicles and drivers. Feeding wildlife may also make it tempting to pet or tame wild animals. Always remember that wild animals are just what the name implies - wild! Never try to approach a wild animal or keep one as a pet.

It’s illegal
To prevent people from feeding wildlife, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has made it illegal to intentionally feed deer, bear and moose in New York State. To learn more about deer and moose feeding, click here. And to learn more about bear feeding regulations, click here.

While it isn’t advisable to feed wildlife, there are still a handful of ways you can help your animal neighbors. Here’s how you can help the natural ecosystem in a beneficial way:

Provide water
If you have a bird bath, heat it. Not only will birds appreciate this accommodation, but other animals will take advantage of the water, which is difficult to come by in below freezing temperatures. You could also consider building a small pond in your yard.

Feed the birds
While you are advised to avoid feeding larger wildlife species, feeding birds is perfectly OK and encouraged! During the winter months, birds may find it difficult to find berries and other natural food sources. Feeding birds is an inexpensive way to help the wildlife in your area. You can even make your own bird food!

If you live in a cold-weather climate, then you know there is a lot to consider when prepping for the winter months. Click on the button below to learn more about preparing your home for winter.