In light of the recent relocation to Florida, I figured I would address the topic of free feeding wildlife. I have noticed humans love to feed things. Whether they are grain machines at the zoo, tossing stale bread to ducks, or paying to feed baby alligators from a string at a mini golf course (something I saw for the first time here in Florida), it seems like humans see food as a universal form of bonding. I am here to tell you there are other ways to connect with our world’s animals and wildlife that don’t involve feeding these wild creatures like we would our cats or dogs.

What is so wrong about wanting to throw an alligator a few snacks, or tossing some bread to some ducks with your little ones?

Here is the gritty truth.

Free feeding diminishes the natural fear of humans in our wildlife. This is especially problematic when feeding animals like sea lions or alligators. As mothers begin to learn that they can get food from humans, they begin to spend their time begging rather than searching, foraging, or hunting. When their young come into the picture, their mothers are too busy begging and they don’t teach their young necessary skills needed for survival decreasing their species survival rate. Not only is free feeding dangerous for people when the animals begin to get aggressive when they don’t get the food they are looking for, but it is also dangerous for the animal who has become reliant on this unnatural method of obtaining food.

There are other ways to observe and connect with our natural world!

1. Go for a hike, quiet yourself, and observe the native species inhabiting the woods you are in from afar

2. Go to your local zoo or aquarium and take time to observe the behaviors of the animals on exhibit

3. Visit an animal rescue and learn about the animals that are there

4. Lastly, if you really can’t resist the urge, go to your local petting zoo and feed your domestic farm animals like goats and donkeys.

We can learn so much by just observing our wild species, and it can remind us about the simplicity of life. It is a humbling experience looking into the eyes of the wild and letting their exotic beauty take you away.

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Image borrowed from ccfriendsofwildlife.org

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