Visitors to provincial parks seem to be in the habit of feeding wildlife which can bring negative consequences to animals as well as people.
Janine Wilmott is a human wildlife co-existence biologist.
She notes people are often tempted to bring bird seed to hiking trails but says it’s not a good idea.
“Spilled bird seed and attract not only birds but also animals like coyotes that will feed not only on the bird seed but also on the birds and rodents that are there,” Wilmott explains. “So, we really don't want people spreading much bird seed along trails where people are going to be walking. We don't really want to attract predators to trails where people are going to be walking.”
Wilmott says feeding wildlife can also have a negative impact on the animal's development of survival skills.
“Wild animals, through searching for their natural food sources, they develop survival skills that they're going to then pass on to their young. So, we don't really want them starting to rely on human based food sources and then not developing those survival skills that they can then pass on.”
Wilmott says people sometimes leave food behind that is not good for wildlife, leading to situations of disease or mouth and throat injuries, possibly even death.
“When food is being provided by people, it's often in a big grouping of food, so it can cluster animals around that food source. And when you have a cluster of animals like that, there is increased risk that disease can be transferred from one animal to another, so again, negative impacts to the wildlife.”
She says there’s also a drain on provincial staff time as they are going along the trails and cleaning up the mess that people leave behind, thinking they’re being helpful by feeding wildlife.
“So, we're really hopeful that people can avoid that practice. Visit our parks and follow the ‘pack in-pack out’ rule. Leave no trace. Clean up your dog waste, your pet waste, so you're leaving no trace behind.”
Wilmott says there are great trails to explore and enjoy in the provincial parks.
“I would encourage people to bring a pair of binoculars or a great camera with a telephoto lens so that they can enjoy wildlife from afar and not feel like they have to offer food to try and entice it closer.”
She encourages people to look for effective and safe ways of helping wildlife by supporting organizations that work with wildlife and protect their habitat.
"We do have some really great information about coexisting with wildlife on the provincial website. So, people can look at manitoba.ca/human-wildlife, there are all kinds of great resources on there. We have probably at least a dozen fact sheets about coexisting with different species of wildlife, so different things that they should avoid doing but also things they can do to be proactive.”
-With files from Carly Koop.