SciSun: Find Dining   Leave a comment

In many countries, the day after Christmas is called ‘Boxing Day’. Years ago, this was a day for recognizing and giving presents not to family and friends but to people you saw regularly but weren’t really close to – like your house servants and carriage master (yes, this was quite a few years ago). Later it became a day to give presents to the unfortunate: Box up some food and clothes for donation. That evolved into an opportunity to make space for your new gifts by getting rid of old stuff you no longer needed (after all, someone can use it!); and today, it’s mainly become a day to return unwanted gifts to the store and eat leftovers from Christmas dinner. Yes, times have changed. With the freezing temperatures, blowing snow and harsh weather that accompany the Holiday season, it’s not just butlers and coachmen to think about, but our wildlife friends, also. (And if you are thinking of your butler and coachmen, well whoopee for you).

In most of our neighborhoods wildlife live among us every day, although often working hard to go un-noticed. Some areas might be homes to deer, fox, or even bear; but within most of our backyards, parks, vacant lots, and even city sidewalks, squirrels, chipmunks, and the occasional possum or raccoon are the usual natives. The wild animal virtually all of us see every day is the ‘common’ backyard bird. Robins, Jays, Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Finches, and ‘little brown birds’ perch in our trees, nest in our shrubs and some live their entire lives among our homes, often un-noticed and sometimes considered pests. Yet these little creatures do a big job, eating insects, spreading seeds and pollen, and their songs and calls creating background noise that we might take for granted but would certainly miss if it went away. In the winter feeding the birds, along with deer and other neighborhood animals, is one way many of us try to help our wildlife colleagues. But do these wild animals, who lived and thrived before man arrived in their territories, really need our help, or are our efforts and attention providing more pleasure for us, than for them?

“I'll be happy to take that old, dry fruitcake off your hands.  And any of those chips and cheezy-bites and left over appletizers.  But not the green bean cassy-role.  Nobody likes that.”

“I’ll be happy to take that old, dry fruitcake off your hands. And any of those chips and cheezy-bites and left over appletizers. But not the green bean cassy-role. Nobody likes that.”

Generally, feeding any wild animal is not a good idea. All animals have a specialized diet and specific metabolic needs that vary throughout the year and only wildlife experts can begin to understand exactly what every species does, and does not, need. It’s very easy to make an animal sick, or even severely harm the animal, by feeding food they might eat, but shouldn’t. Sandwich and white bread, for example – which almost all animals will eat (high carb diet?), shouldn’t be the biggest part of anyone’s menu, humans included (high carb diet!). Corn – often left out for deer – can actually ferment in the animals stomach if too much is eaten, resulting in high levels of yeast and bacteria that create bloating, blockage or even death. Table scraps and leftovers might attract wildlife (as well as cockroaches and rats), but cranberry stuffing and marshmallow fruit salad and gingerbread cookies are never healthy for animals, despite how much we might enjoy it.

After years of research, scientists and bird-enthusiasts have discovered that feeding backyard birds (a healthy, balanced, bird friendly diet!) does seem to be beneficial, but not necessary. Through countless hours of observation and measurement, it’s estimated each individual bird does not depend on backyard feeders but uses human-provided food to supplement the natural foods she searches for throughout the day. Many birds will even move from feeder to feeder, only sampling a bit of food at each and not depending on any one source. It was found that for our avian-associates what are more vital than feeders are sources of fresh, clear water. It seems in all but the most harsh of winter food is much easier to find than water, and a birdbath, fountain, or pond is more important to the birds – as well as other wildlife – then any food we think they might need, and these handouts actually turn out to be more for our enjoyment, than their need.

While we might think animals ‘know’ what to eat, the fact is they can be just as eager to try out new and different tastes as we are (watch what people choose as they go through the buffet line. Or on second thought, maybe that’s something you don’t want to look at too closely). Handfuls of corn spread out on the ground is ‘fast food’ to a deer herd; when a squirrel dashes by to grab a kernel of popcorn or piece of breadcrust, it’s his version of drive through (or delivery direct to his door, in fifteen minutes or less. And squirrels are really bad tippers). And while we know better than to eat nothing but junk food, our wildlife friends can’t make that choice. After generations of living among humans, they depend upon us not to feed them anything they shouldn’t have. Which is sometimes more consideration than what we choose to feed ourselves.


Michonne Says: I thought that poppy corn the men left was a flower. It was shaped like a flower. It was white like a flower. It was laying on the ground like a flower. It even has the same name as a flower. It tasted just as good as a flower and I ate all I could find. But later I didn’t feel so well. No wonder the men left it behind.

Posted December 28, 2014 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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