Don’t feed the wildlife

Mostly I use this blog to share my photos. Sometimes I use it to explain something. Right now I need to rant perhaps a little about something I saw at Custer State Park. There is a lot of wildlife there, which of course is one of the reasons that people visit it. When you enter the park, there are signs warning you that buffalo are dangerous and don’t approach them. I know I saw at least one sign that said don’t feed the wildlife. On the park’s website, it says don’t feed the wildlife. Yesterday, close to sunset, I was driving on the wildlife loop and saw donkeys eating in the grasslands. I pulled over to park, and there was a family out of their car feeding a donkey right next to their car. The donkey was clearly friendly and used to humans, but it was not in a harness, and it was a park. I knew it was wrong to feed the donkey as sweet as it appeared to be. The man was letting his young daughter feed the donkey, and the donkey was practically eating out of her hand. I was worried, perhaps overly so, that the girl might accidentally get bitten. [It doesn’t matter how sweet the animal, even with horses and dogs, there is a right way and wrong way to give an animal food from your hand to make sure you are not accidentally bitten.] I finally said something to the man. I said you are not supposed to feed the wildlife. He said I know. I said this is a state park. He said I know. He clearly didn’t care. They left soon after, and others came to park and see the donkeys. A women in another car brought them carrots and celery. The donkeys came up to the car windows. The women got out to feed them. Two other donkeys approached seeing how this one donkey was being fed from two different sets of people. The woman who brought the carrots and celery finally threw the vegetables at the donkeys and ran away because the donkeys kept trying to eat from her hand. Then the donkeys went car to car trying to get food. I initially had been outside my car taking photos of the donkeys in the field. I had to retreat to car after the donkeys kept going to everyone. I wasn’t afraid of the donkeys, but I was not going to give them anything, and I didn’t think I should be interacting with them at all.

Basic rule of thumb is don’t feed the wildlife. Unless there is a park ranger standing near you stating you can feed whichever particular wildlife and here is what to feed them, then don’t feed the wildlife. I don’t know why there are donkeys in a state park. I don’t even know if they are truly wild or maybe just feral or really domestic and somehow ended up in the park. I do know the park information says don’t feed the wildlife and no exclusion is stated for the donkeys. Animals that are fed start to depend on humans for food and don’t forage properly. You may not be feeding them proper food either. It may not be good for them. It may not have the proper nutrients, and then because they don’t forage, they don’t get proper nutrients. It is like people feeding bread to ducks. Bread is not actually all that nutritious for ducks. You could get accidentally hurt. The animal could get hurt. Think of those donkeys going right up to the cars. You think they are more likely to get hit by a car because they think cars mean food? Diseases can be spread to or from the animal.

It is really simple. Don’t feed the animals.

A friendly donkey at my car window thinking I might give it food because others have

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