​​​2 Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem
Episode 2: Don't Feed the Wildlife
20 April 2018
​We all love seeing wildlife, especially pretty songbirds at our bird feeders. But should we be feeding other wildlife? Absolutely not! In fact, it may even be illegal!
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Transcript

JENNY>> Welcome to Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, sponsored by the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. Now here’s your host, Gary Robson:

GARY>> You may have seen “don’t feed the wildlife” signs, but it’s really not a big deal to put out some food for the deer or toss some treats to the wild turkeys, is it? Well, as it turns out, it is a big deal. Often, in fact, being fed can turn into a death sentence for the wildlife.

Disease is one big reason. Feeding wild animals concentrates them in a single area, where diseases can spread quickly. And that’s not the only way those cute deer or moose that you feed can end up dead. Most of us really have no idea what wild animals eat during various seasons, and rich foods can kill an animal that’s used to winter forage. Even alfalfa pellets.

These are just some of the reasons why feeding the animals isn’t just a bad idea: it may be illegal in your area. In Montana, knowingly attracting deer, moose, mountain lions, or turkeys with feed can get you a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail [ MCA 87-6-216 ]. Some cities add their own codes. Here in Red Lodge, for example, feeding wild animals can get you a $300 fine [ RLMC 5-5A-5 ].

Feeding wildlife in Yellowstone Park is banned because, according to the Park’s website , “Animals that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed.”

In Wyoming, there’s no state law against feeding wildlife, but certain cities and counties, like Teton County, have banned the practice.

If the law and the potential to kill the animals doesn’t deter you, there’s another big reason not to feed wild turkeys, deer, and other prey animals. A concentration of prey attracts predators, and feeding the animals can create quite a concentration of prey. The couple of dozen wild turkeys we’d see in Red Lodge 20 years ago have turned into hundreds of birds wintering in town.

Montana Game Warden Matthew Heaton told me that a bear was spotted killing and eating a deer within the city limits of Red Lodge this spring. At least three mountain lions and a number of coyotes have been spotted in town, too. There’s a great book called The Beast in the Garden , by David Baron, that tells the story of how encouraging deer to live in Boulder, Colorado caused an influx of mountain lions in town that culminated in people being attacked.

So let’s enjoy those wild animals, but let them stay wild. And remember, wildlife sightings are guaranteed at the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary, where our mission is to provide lifelong sanctuary to non-releasable native wildlife while sharing a message of conservation and education.

Join us next week for our next episode of Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, where we'll talk about the bears waking up for the springtime. 

JENNY>> Thanks for joining us for Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, sponsored by the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge, Montana. This podcast updates every Friday on iTunes  and the Sanctuary’s website, YellowstoneWildlifeSanctuary.org.
Thanks to our recording partners at FM99: the Mountain , where you can hear this show live every Wednesday at 8:22 a.m.
I’m your announcer, Jenny Van Ooyen, and I hope you’ll join me next week for another episode of Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem!