|A sign warning visitors to not feed the animals.|
|Lyme disease is carried by ticks|
More dangerous, however, are the changes in behavior so often seen after an animal is fed. Fed animals loose their natural fear of people, as as such are more likely to come up to people and to enter populated areas. This comes with a major set of dangers for the animals, and people too. Depending on where the animal is feed, it may stay on or near a roadway, and as such be put at risk of being hit by a car, which may easily result in the death of the animal, the driver, or both. Also, when entering developed areas, animals will often cross roadways, with the same potential risk. More risk to the animal comes from the potential for them to approach the wrong person or the wrong area, and thus possibly ending up being shot, attacked by domestic pets, or otherwise injured or killed.
|I sure wouldn't want to face an angry 'gator.|
If those reasons aren't good enough to stop you from feeding wild animals, here are some more. Human food in notoriously bad for animals. Many of them have very specific dietary needs, and receiving an improper diet can lead to all sorts of issues. Tooth decay and ulcers are just a few of the fairly minor problems that may come from feeding the animal. Other concerns include such things as weakened immune systems and blockage of the digestive tract. In fact, some animals have very narrow dietary constraints, and an improper balance can be dangerous. The wrong diet can kill an animal. Ever heard of colic in horses? It's a very similar concept (though not necessarily involving the same biological reasons).
|This opossum was eating trash|
|Rabies is of frequent concern.|
There is also always the concern of dependence. Fed animals will often become dependent on the food they are being given, and thus will be unable to fend for themselves in the wild. If the food supply runs out, then there is little the animal can do except starve to death. It may also exhibit many of the undesirable behaviors listed above, such as becoming aggressive or venturing into urban areas in an attempt to obtain food. This is especially sad for endangered species, since in most cases every effort is being put into helping the animals bounce back from their trip to the edge of nothingness. If the animals cannot fend for themselves, then a truly wild population can never be brought into being.
Sadly, the most humane thing for a fed animal is for it to be put it to sleep. All of this is because someone was trying to be "nice." Never feed wild animals! Help keep them wild.
Sources are the Center for Wildlife Information, Office of Environment & Heritage of the Government of New South Wales, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Northfield News, Huffington Post, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Images are from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licensing or are copyright free: one, two, three, four, five.