Your Food is Your Food
Human food is unhealthy for wild animals.
You’ve heard the phrase, “a fed bear is a dead bear” but is it really that bad to give the cute fox in the visitor center parking lot a nibble of your energy bar?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Think of it this way. If you’ve owned a pet, you know most dogs and cats have amazing memories when it comes to recalling where and when to get food. The instincts of wild animals are similar. When wildlife receives food from people (even if it’s just a piece of candy along the trail) they quickly learn to associate humans with a convenient and safe meal.
This is problematic for several reasons.
When an animal like a fox, bear, or even an elk, loses its fear of humans it can potentially become aggressive toward people. Sadly, each year bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are euthanized by wildlife managers because they have received human food and have become dangerous to the point where human safety is of concern.
- Always secure food and carry out food waste
- Keep them wild, don’t feed wildlife of any kind
- Feeding can lead to habituation, which can be dangerous for humans and wildlife
Another reason we ask you not to feed wildlife is for the wellbeing of the animal itself.
When wildlife become “habituated” they often change their behavior from natural foraging patterns to become artificially reliant on humans. When the ability to forage naturally is lost an animal is at severe risk of starvation when their source of food is taken away, such as during the long winters here in Wyoming.
Did you know that feeding wildlife is illegal in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks and violators will receive tickets from law enforcement?
Lastly, we can’t stress enough that most human food is NOT healthy for wildlife. The animals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are well adapted to natural food sources found in the environment and have been for thousands of years. Until chocolate bars and trail mix start growing on Aspen trees, we encourage you to respect mother nature’s elegant design and help keep our wildlife wild!
What You Can Do?
Always secure food and carry out food waste
Leave your campsite clean, without garbage or food waste
Ignore the urge to share your snacks with little critters
Food-Conditioned Red Fox Killed
Date: January 4, 2018
Contact: Andrew White, 307.739.3431
MOOSE, WY—A red fox, which had received numerous food handouts from people in Grand Teton National Park, was put to death recently. The fox exhibited bold behavior by approaching people and vehicles in search of food, and was killed out of concern for human safety. Visitors are reminded that feeding park wildlife is illegal, and may ultimately lead to the death of an animal or injury to park visitors.
“Destruction of a wild animal is one of the most difficult actions we have to take as park stewards,” said Superintendent David Vela. “Hopefully this can serve as a cautionary reminder. I encourage everyone to help protect wildlife by securing food sources, including dog food and fish scraps, and by using the ‘Scare, don’t stare’ tactic to discourage approaching foxes.” Vela added that visitors can help hold each other accountable and should immediately report incidents of animals being fed to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 307.739.3301.
Evidence suggests there has been a marked increase in the population of red foxes in recent years. Accompanying the apparent population increase, biologists have documented increasing numbers of habituated and food-conditioned foxes. The small native animals have been observed begging for food in developed areas and harassing ice fisherman on Jackson Lake.
The rise in human-fox encounters spurred biologists to begin a red fox research project in the winter of 2016-2017. The goal of the study is to improve understanding of red fox ecology and to address management concerns related to human safety and wildlife health. To date, 13 foxes have been captured and tested for disease prevalence, genetic lineage, and use of natural and human foods. Some of these foxes have been fitted with radio collars to track movements and habitat use, locate dens, document reproductive success, and follow other trends.
One of these collared foxes, a two- or three-year-old male, was known to frequent the Jackson Lake Dam and Signal Mountain areas. Reports involving this individual over the last year include lingering around ice fisherman and receiving fish scraps as well as getting into dog food left unsecured by visitors in a campground. In recent weeks, park staff received numerous reports of the bold fox approaching visitors in the dam parking lot, and in at least one instance jumping up on a vehicle to beg for food.
On December 28, park biologists observed the fox for two hours as it continually walked in front of moving vehicles, approached vehicles and people, and loitered in the roadway. The biologists were also told the fox had been fed grapes by a visitor the previous day.
The fox was captured, immobilized, and transported to a location away from visitors to be dispatched. The fox was of a normal healthy weight, and samples were taken to determine its dietary composition. Relocation of the fox was considered, but ultimately dismissed, as relocated foxes typically continue to beg for human food in a new area, return to their original territory, or die due to starvation or competition with other territorial foxes.
The “Scare, don’t stare” tactic includes yelling, clapping, stomping, and avoiding eye contact in an effort to dissuade foxes from approaching humans. The tactic should only be employed after attempts to maintain a minimum viewing distance of 25 yards have failed. It should not be used with foxes that behave naturally.