A black bear rambles along the side of the Barkerville Highway near Wells on Saturday, June 13. (Sasha Sefter - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

Editorial: Feeding wild animals a terrible idea

The thing is, you’re not helping it by feeding it.

Apparently, it still needs to be said.

Don’t feed the bears.

Seriously, how do some people not get it by now? Yet almost every year, sometimes on multiple occasions, officers from the B.C. Conservation Service have to remind people that it’s a really bad idea to try to lure a wild animal in your direction with food.

The first caution this year was given in the Cowichan Valley earlier this month, after officers got reports of people try to feed a wild bear near Youbou. People were spotted getting out of their cars on the side of the road where a young bear was feeding on grass and trying to give it food. Since some still need the reminder we’ll once again reiterate: don’t do that.

And the advice doesn’t just apply to bears, but to all other wild animals as well, from deer to elk to cougars.

There are a number of different reasons why people to offer these creatures food.

The one that draws the most charitable response from us is that they are trying to help. They may feel a baby has been abandoned if they don’t see an adult nearby, or they may feel a particular animal looks thin. The thing is, you’re not helping it by feeding it.

You are habituating it so that it is no longer afraid of humans. It is almost always better for everyone involved, including the wild animal, if it remains afraid of people. If it becomes too used to people and the idea that people mean food, well, one day someone might become the food if they do not give it what it wants. Once a wild animal has attacked a human, it will likely need to be tracked down and put down. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t particularly harbour any ill intent, it is simply too dangerous to have some wild animals too close to our population. If it is young, it may never learn the skills it needs to survive on its native diet in the wild, so used to your handouts. What happens when you move away and the bear or deer you’re feeding comes looking for the meals you’ve always provided?

In the case of young animals, deer in particular, adults will leave them for hours at a time while they forage, but if they come back and smell human on their young, they may reject the baby. Again, you haven’t helped.

Do we even need to spell out how stupid it is to lure a wild animal close to you so you can take a selfie, or shoot some video for social media. Just don’t.

Don’t feed the bears.

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