Keep wildlife wild: please don’t feed the animals
Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH) and other conservation bodies generally advise against feeding native animals, for a good reason.
Why can’t I feed native animals?
When you feed native animals you’re giving them the wildlife equivalent of junk food. Instead of eating a wide range of natural foods, they depend on processed seeds, bread and other foods that are not part of their natural diet. This can make them very sick.
Animals that expect to be fed by people can become aggressive, harassing people for food when they are hungry.
Once the animals you’re feeding know that you are a reliable source of food, they may converge on your home or campsite, potentially disrupting their migratory patterns and displacing other species. If wildlife flock to be near you, their newfound population density may encourage the spread of communicable diseases between them.
They may also lose their ability to forage for natural foods.
Think twice before you feed wild animals – a moment’s pleasure for you may lead to the animal you feed becoming addicted to junk food.
What about kangaroos, possums and goannas?
Kangaroos and wallabies eat a range of native grasses and herbs and are adapted to chewing and digesting these grasses. Other foods just aren’t the same! Roo pellets can also be harmful.
When kangaroos and wallabies become used to being hand-fed, they sometimes attack people in their quest for food. Remember, they have sharp claws and a strong kick.
At night, possums and gliders come out to forage among the treetops for leaves, fruits and flowers. If they get used to being fed by humans, they spend less time foraging and more time raiding your tent or kitchen.
Goannas find it difficult to distinguish between your hand and the food in it. A goanna bite or scratch is very painful and prone to infection as these animals are scavengers. Never feed a goanna – they are dangerous animals.
Remember that kangaroos, wallabies, possums and goannas are wild animals.
Not even birds?
- Hand-fed birds become a nuisance – you may start feeding one or two birds but, within a short space of time, great flocks can descend. This can be a frightening experience, especially for small children. Hand-fed sulphur crested cockatoos like to chew cedar houses when the occupants are not around to feed them.
- Hand-fed birds are susceptible to illnesses that can be transferred to other birds. Young birds lose the ability to forage for food and when not fed by humans may starve. Hand feeding can also affect bird breeding cycles.
- Hand-fed birds take over – populations of some birds such as crimson rosellas increase, displacing other birds and mammals that shelter in tree hollows. When currawongs and ravens are hand-fed they breed up and prey on smaller birds, causing an imbalance in bird populations.
- Find out more information about the dangers of feeding lorikeets.
So, how can I attract wildlife to my garden?
The good news is that there are responsible ways to attract wildlife to your backyard without endangering yourself or the natural order. Plant trees such as hakeas, acacias, casuarinas and eucalypts to provide natural foods for visiting birds. Create flowering habitats for honeyeaters with banksias, bottlebrushes and grevilleas. Include some prickly shrubs for smaller birds to hide in.
If you’d like to observe birds up close, install a bird bath or water feature. A water feature may also attract frogs. Nesting boxes can help to attract possums and birds.
To avoid scaring the wildlife away, be sure to keep any cats and dogs inside the house at night.
- Help to protect native wildlife by joining a rescue group such as WIRES or Wildlife Rescue South Coast.
- Find out more about native animal species on an NPWS Discovery tour in your local area
- Read about and report sightings of native animals in the Atlas of NSW Wildlife.