The Stanley Park Ecology Society (“SPES”) supports banning wildlife feeding in parks and managing unintended feeding. SPES believes feeding wildlife, both intentionally and unintentionally, is a significant source of human-wildlife conflict and increases harms to wildlife. On this page: Types of Feeding, Harms of Wildlife Feeding, Residential Bird Feeders, Other Ways to Experience Wildlife, Enforcement, Resources, and References.
Types of Feeding
Broadly, there are two types of wildlife feeding:
Intentional Wildlife Feeding
Unintentional Wildlife Feeding
- Captivity & Rehabilitation
- Research Management
Directly hand-feeding wildlife, sometimes with ulterior motives like to take to a photograph. (Photo A)
Leaving food out with the intention of wildlife feeding. This can look like piles of bird seed, piles of dog or cat food, or food strategically placed so that it is accessible to wildlife. (Photo B)
- Environmental Features
This can include things like landfills, gardens and fruit trees with neglected fallen fruit.
Improper disposal of food or leaving garbage behind in natural spaces. (Photo C)
- Improper Management
Garbage or compost bins/piles that are improperly closed or provide access to wildlife. (Photo D)
- Environmental Features
There are many forms of wildlife feeding. It is even possible to intentionally feed birds but unintentionally feed rats and squirrels that can access the bird feeder. This may unintentionally feed coyotes that may begin visiting your backyard. It is important to consider the cascading effects.
Harms of Wildlife Feeding
Many people that engage in wildlife feeding may feel as though they are helping wild animals survive and may have kind intentions behind their actions. However, there are many harmful effects including poor welfare and increases in human-wildlife conflicts (Dubois & Fraser, 2013; Cox & Gaston, 2018).
Harms to wildlife include:
- Death. Habituated and food-conditioned animals are commonly seen as a threat and are subsequently killed (Gilbert, 1989; Peine, 2001; Dubois & Fraser, 2013)
- Disease transmission among wildlife at feeding sites (Murray et al., 2016; Strandin et al., 2018)
- Increased aggression among wildlife at feeding sites (Murray et al., 2016; Becker et al., 2015)
- Poor nutrition or contaminants in food. This can include absence of important nutrients found in natural diets as well as contaminants like antibiotics or metals (Strandin et al., 2018; Becker et al., 2015)
- Extensive impacts to biodiversity. An example is bird feeding and it impact on the structure of native and introduced species in urban areas (Shutt & Lees, 2021; Galbraith et al., 2015; Oro et al., 2013)
- Changes to natural animal behavior. Human-provided foods can change predator behavior which has effects across the entire ecosystem food web (Newsome et al., 2015)
Harms to Humans include:
- Physical Injury. Food conditioning has been implicated in the majority of bite incidents or incidents involving physical contact between wildlife and humans (Alexander & Quinn, 2011; Kaufmann, 2021; Lukasik & Alexander, 2012)
- Disease Transmission. An example could include roundworm that is commonly transmitted by raccoons (Anderson & Mills, 1991; Catalano et al., 2012; Hegglin et al., 2015).
Residential Bird Feeders
SPES encourages residents to consult the BC SPCA “Get the facts on backyard bird feeding” page that states
“…[B]ird feeding, though a popular activity, carries risks. Backyard bird feeders can facilitate the spread of disease, provide inadequate nutrition and increase the risk of window strikes, predation and conflicts with other wild animals. Except for liquid hummingbird nectar feeders (due to their specificity and low attraction to other species), the BC SPCA does not support providing bird feeders in months when there are abundant natural food sources available. During these months (which vary from region to region), native plants, well-managed bird baths and bird houses can be appropriate attractants for birds. The BC SPCA is opposed to intentional hand-feeding of birds like jays, gulls, pigeons and ducks, geese and other waterfowl, and recommends municipalities and parks strongly discourage feeding through education, bylaws and enforcement.”
SPES also encourages residents with bird feeders to consult announcements and media releases regarding disease outbreaks in birds due to bird feeders to understand and appreciate the risk to wildlife. An example of such an announcement can be found here.
Other Ways to Experience Wildlife
There are ways to experience and learn about nature and wildlife without causing harm and we encourage everyone to get involved!
SPES hosts many events and educational sessions and highly recommends exploring birding as an option to appreciate wildlife in a safe way.
Check out our events page for upcoming events: https://stanleyparkecology.ca/events and keep an eye out for our Birding With Me Series if you are a beginner birder and would like to learn more!
In recognition that feeding wildlife can have significant effects on the safety and health of humans and animals, The Vancouver Park Board passed a bylaw in September 2021 prohibiting the feeding of wildlife in Vancouver Parks with a $500 dollar fine per offence. In April 2022, this bylaw prohibition was extended to prohibit the feeding of wildlife anywhere in Vancouver. To learn more about the bylaw, please visit the City of Vancouver Website here.
In British Columbia, The Wildlife Act prohibits the feeding of dangerous wildlife (bears, cougars, coyotes, wolf, or a species of wildlife that is prescribed as dangerous wildlife) as a federal offence. Most recently, a judge set a $60,000 fine for feeding bears to a resident living in Whistler, BC. The Wildlife Act can be accessed here.
The Fur-Bearers released an ‘Urban Feeding of Fur-Bearing Wildlife’ literature review detailing available peer-reviewed articles on wildlife feeding in urban settings that can be found here.
The BC SPCA has released a position statement on wildlife feeding that is accessible on their website here.
Alexander, S. M., & Quinn, M. S. (2011). Coyote (Canis latrans) Interactions With Humans and Pets Reported in the Canadian Print Media (1995–2010). Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 16(5), 345–359.
Anderson, & Mills, J. (1991). Occurrence of the raccoon roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis in racoons in Nova Scotia. Dept. of Lands and Forests.
Becker, D. J., Streicker, D. G., & Altizer, S. (2015). Linking anthropogenic resources to wildlife–pathogen dynamics: a review and meta‐analysis. Ecology Letters, 18(5), 483–495.
Catalano, S., Lejeune, M., Liccioli, S., Verocai, G. G., Gesy, K. M., Jenkins, E. J., Kutz, S. J., Fuentealba, C., Duignan, P. J., & Massolo, A. (2012). Echinococcus multilocularis in Urban Coyotes, Alberta, Canada. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 18(10), 1625–1628.
Cox DTC, Gaston KJ. 2018 Human–nature interactions and the consequences and drivers of provisioning wildlife. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 373: 20170092.
Dubois, S., & Fraser, D. (2013). Local Attitudes towards Bear Management after Illegal Feeding and Problem Bear Activity. Animals : An Open Access Journal from MDPI, 3(3), 935–950.
Galbraith, J.A., J.R. Beggs, D.N. Jones, and M.C. Stanley. (2015). Supplementary Feeding Restructures Urban Bird Communities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.112, E2648–57.
Gilbert, B. K. (1989). Behavioral plasticity and bear–human conflicts. Bear–people conflicts. In Proceedings of a Symposium on Bear Management Strategies (pp. 1–7). Northwest Territories: Department of Renewable Resources: 1–7.
Hegglin, D., Bontadina, F., & Deplazes, P. (2015). Human–wildlife interactions and zoonotic transmission of Echinococcus multilocularis. Trends in Parasitology, 31(5), 167–173.
Kaufmann, B. (2021, June, 21). ‘This is ridiculous’: As coyote attacks mount, city says residents feeding the animals. Calgary Herald. Retrieved from:
Lukasik, V. M. and Alexander, S. M. (2012) Spatial and Temporal Variation of Coyote (Canislatrans) Diet in Calgary, Alberta. Cities and the Environment (CATE), 4(1), Article 8.
Murray, M. H., Becker, D. J., Hall, R. J., & Hernandez, S. M. (2016). Wildlife health and supplemental feeding: A review and management recommendations. Biological Conservation, 204(Part B), 163–174.
Newsome, T. M., Dellinger, J. A., Pavey, C. R., Ripple, W. J., Shores, C. R., Wirsing, A. J., & Dickman, C. R. (2015). The ecological effects of providing resource subsidies to predators. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 24(1), 1–11.
Oro, D., Genovart, M., Tavecchia, G., Fowler, M. S., & Martínez‐Abraín, A. (2013). Ecological and evolutionary implications of food subsidies from humans. Ecology Letters, 16(12), 1501– 1514.
Peine, J. D. (2001). Nuisance Bears in Communities: Strategies to Reduce Conflict. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 6(3), 223–237.
Shutt, J. D., & Lees, A. C. (2021). Killing with kindness: Does widespread generalised provisioning of wildlife help or hinder biodiversity conservation efforts? Biological Conservation, 261(Complete).