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West Virginia State Parks and Forests

Feeding Wildlife causes

Poor nutrition
Human / Animal conflicts
Spread of disease
Dependency on people for food

Feeding wildlife in West Virginia State Parks and Forests is prohibited by law!

Help us maintain the ‘wild’ in wildlife?

Don't feed deer, bear, or other wild animals! Help them remain "wild" and maintain their health. Animals cannot control your can.

Learn the facts about our fascinating wildlife by participating in park interpretive programs.

Tell others why it is harmful to feed wildlife.

Go outdoors and observe the natural relationships between animals and plants in a natural setting. Photographs of wild animals behaving like wild animals have a far greater appeal and value than those of animals influenced by human activities.

To learn more, read on...

Why do people feed wildlife?

The reasons are varied and reflect our attitudes toward wildlife. The influence of the media, entertainment, education and upbringing have tended to narrow our viewpoint of wildlife to a strictly human perspective. We even assign "values" to animals based on appearance or economic value. A deer is "cute" a toad is "ugly", even though both play an equally important role in the balance of nature.

Some people may be entertained by the animal eating out of the hand. Others are simply trying to get that unforgettable photograph. Some feel that it is a legitimate recreational activity, and yet others feel that it is necessary to sustain the animal.

The animal, however, pays the ultimate price for our suffers or dies.

What about feeding wildlife "good" food like apples?

For every visitor that feeds the wildlife apples, there are ten others that feed them "junk" food. The total effect is devastating.

Even if apples were the only food that visitors fed wildlife, the consequences of this unnatural act still follow.

The balance of natural foods that the animal needs to be healthy are replaced by an unbalanced, unhealthy diet.

Unnatural feeding patterns develop.

Animals congregate at feeding areas increasing the risk of transferring parasites and disease from deer to deer and diseases carried by ticks to humans.

Many animals are killed or wounded by motor vehicles along park roads each year because they are attracted to roadside feeding areas.

Why are the animals so tame?

Wild animals are never really tame, but have simply lost their fear of humans. These wild animals can react unpredictably if threatened or harassed.

Many animals can inflict painful bites or because of size, present a potential physical hazard. Avoid close contact with wild animals to prevent personal injury.


What are the natural foods of the deer?

An adult white-tailed deer needs four to six pounds of woody browse and other vegetation such as grasses each day to be healthy. Woody browse consists of the leaves, buds and twigs of trees and shrubs. Acorns, beech nuts, crabapples and other mast also comprise a major portion of the diet.

How do deer digest these foods?

The digestive system of the deer is quite different from ours. Deer are ruminants, like cows, and chew food more than once during the digestive process. The rumen, one of the four compartments of a ruminant's stomach, contains single celled organisms which break down the coarse, raw foods as the first step in digestion.

How does "junk" food affect the deer?

When a deer's diet changes, the organisms in the stomach must also change. The right type of stomach organisms must be present in sufficient quantity to properly digest the new food. This is a gradual process. When abrupt changes in diet occur the right organisms may not be present, causing toxic substances to accumulate in the rumen. This can cause distress and sometimes death for the animal.

This food replaces the natural food the deer needs to be healthy. This unnatural food weakens the deer, decreasing its chances of survival during the harsh months of winter.

Must the deer be fed in the winter to survive?

When deer populations exceed the ability of their range to supply necessary food, a natural check occurs. This check reduces numbers through causes related to malnutrition and decreased reproduction rates. This may not seem pleasant to us, but it is nature's way of maintaining the balance between available plants and plant eaters.

Supplemental feeding during the winter removes this natural check. When supplemental food is provided, the problem of overpopulation is increased because a larger herd is carried through to the next winter. This further depletes available natural foods and decreases the overall health of the herd. Also, most state wildlife agencies have found that supplemental feeding is rarely successful and very expensive.

When deer eat their food plants faster than they can grow back, serious problems occur. Deer can actually deplete the food and habitat of other native animal species through over-browsing.


These two animals are also adversely affected by feeding. Poor nutrition and increased disease take their toll. These animals also represent a significant threat to humans when their behavior is altered through human contact.

When raccoons and skunks lose their natural fear of humans, direct contact may result. In addition to the severe bite these two animals can inflict, they are two of the primary reservoirs for rabies virus in the wild.

What is rabies?

Rabies is an infectious disease of warm-blooded animals caused by a virus. This virus is present in the saliva of infected animals and humans can become infected by being bitten or allowing the saliva to contaminate fresh cuts or serrations. There is no known cure for rabies once a person becomes sick. Humans ca be protected if treated immediately after exposure.

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