I confess I’m as guilty as the next well-intentioned soul, leaving nuts for squirrels or bits of bread for birds. Although, the results of our actions are sometimes less desirable than we realise. Don’t get me wrong, our hearts are definitely in the right place. Although, there may be other ways to share with our fellow creatures, thus helping to affirm our place in nature.
Seemed Like a Good Idea At the Time
For various reasons, many of us feel a deeply held bond with nature. We want to do our best to assist or at least make things a little easier for our fellow species. We all need to eat and so, this seems like the most natural approach.
So, at different times, we opt to maybe leave a little bit of food for the animals we sometimes encounter. Some of us bundle up a bit of food, our intentions being to share it with, say, any squirrels, foxes, or birds we may encounter.
Hazards of a Well-Intentioned Gesture
It’s all well and good. However, when we offer food, there’s a level of trust that develops between giver and receiver. Two things can happen. The animal may become dependent on the food we’re giving. If so, their ability to find food on their own may diminish. Again, this would put them at harm.
Moreover, over time, they’d also possibly lose their natural fear of humans. We may feel comforted by the latter, one more barrier between human and nature dismantled. But it’ll potentially work against the animal. Not all humans are as well-intentioned as we are. The animal who had developed a certain degree of trust with people, may come across someone who means them no good.
For birds, there are a lot of recommended foods we can actually purchase. It’s best to set aside a time when we can offer our feathered friends a nibble. But think twice before bundling up those pieces of white bread. Truth be told, it’s of little value nutritionally to us. So, the potential of it being any use for birds is fairly low. Just throw it back in the bread box.
Sometimes, people may choose to feed animals such as foxes or even coyotes. Bear in mind, unlike squirrels or birds, some may feel threatened by these creatures. If these animals have been fed, a degree of trust established, they may be more willing to approach people expecting food. If nothing is offered, how might the animals respond?
It may lead to a degree of unnecessary conflict between people and the animal. In some instances, a complaint may be made and the animal is either killed or removed and placed in an area where there will be less contact with humans. In either situation, it means the animal has to be moved from its territory or worse, lose its life. Both are unwanted.
Several other reasons exist that make feeding wildlife a potentially dangerous activity. The food we may take from our plates is not the proper food for animals and may make them sick. Animals may also follow the scent of food, leading them to homes or cabins where they will unexpectedly encounter people and again, potentially lead to an unnecessary conflict. So, what can we do?
Finding More Peaceful Ways to Feed Wildlife
There is nothing at all wrong with our desire to feed our fellow animals. It gently emerges from a variety of sensibilities. For me, I like to think of our innate bond with nature. We are a part of nature; it blankets us, comforting and soothing us. Understandably, we want to share with our fellow animals. We are eager to be a part of their lives.
For others, they may be guided by feelings of stewardship and care. These individuals may feel duty-bound to provide in this regard. Some may see it as a reflection of our apparent dominion over animals, the need being to provide for them. Still, for others, their actions are borne of simple kindness, like a parent to a child. In any case, we are drawn by the desire to offer food or shelter to our fellow animals.
And never fear, rather than feeding animals directly, there are many options available to us. Anyone who enjoys summer in Newfoundland and Labrador is well aware of the bounty of berries. It’s as much a boon for animals as it is for us. A medley of berry shrubs such as raspberry, wild strawberry, squashberry, elderberry, and blueberry bushes are often favourites for a range of animals.
Red squirrels are only one of a variety of small mammals who eat raspberries. Birds do, as well. Raspberry bushes also offer cover for many animals. Wild strawberries and their leaves are favourite food sources to many animals, as well. Likewise, blueberries remain favourites to numerous birds, insects and a wide assortment of mammals. Larger animals such as moose and bears are also partial to blueberries. Similarly, rabbits enjoy these berries, too.
Keeping aware of safety, if you have the space on your property, why not plant a few of these bushes? Otherwise, know that deep in the woods, certain animals are devouring a feast of berries of all kind.
An Array of Trees
The American Mountain Ash, commonly known as the Dogberry is loved by numerous animals in Newfoundland and Labrador. Moose, martens, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse and squirrels also browse and eat the berries of this tree.
Photograph of a dogberry tree (Source: Wikipedia)
The noble Paper birch is a proud tree of our woods. It, too, functions in the lives of animals who seek it for habitat and other purposes. Squirrels, moose, beaver, hummingbirds and yellow-bellied sapsuckers all play a role in the life of the birch. Similarly, the seeds of the Red Maple tree serve as nutrition for squirrels and songbirds such as finches, chickadees, and robins. The seed stalks do double service and can also be used in nest building.
With a bit of space, how about adding these to your front or back yard? If you haven’t got the space, know these gracious giants are doing their part in the woods to offer food and shelter.
A Garden of Delights
Smaller plants such as the Rough stemmed Goldenrod are particularly useful and also easier to plant in and around our homes. A wide variety of insectivorous birds enjoy the goldenrod as it attracts numerous insects. Other birds simply enjoy eating the goldenrod itself.
There are numerous plants that we can grow, each servicing the particular palates of different animals. If your heart is in the right place, you may be willing to plant a few favourites for our four-legged friends.
For instance, dahlias are a wonderful addition to any garden. They are also loved by animals such as rabbits and squirrels. Likewise, feel free to plant tulips, as both rabbits and squirrels will like you.
Some may utter concerns about how their garden may become a shamble with all these animals eating hither and yon. One option is to intentionally sacrifice certain plants for our furred friends to enjoy. Still, at other times, there are ways of concealing their destruction.
I remember visiting a public garden filled with beautiful tulips. I had to look closely, but there, in the middle was a groundhog quietly munching on the white tulips. Obviously not partial to any of the other coloured tulips, it was difficult to notice the groundhog’s particular delights.
Marigolds are particularly delectable for our pollinators, the bees, butterflies, and birds. Black-eyed Susans are also a delight for our pollinators. The beloved rhododendron is another darling of birds and insects drawn to its nectar. Hummingbirds and bees are noted visitors.
Sky’s the Limit
We are often enchanted by the idea of offering food to our fellow animals, as we can see, there’s another way. Oftentimes, it’s even better to intentionally grow some tree, shrub, or plant to provide food for animals. Then, we can enjoy the first time we see a bird alighting on the branches. We may spot the first squirrel scurrying up its branches or rabbit nibbling by a shrub.
The feeling exceeds a job being well done. It is deeply rewarding. The sky’s the limit in terms of what we can do to be a part of nature. It is our world.