Tossing your pumpkins into a forest preserve after Halloween is not only a bad idea, in terms of how it affects wildlife, it's also illegal and you could be ticketed.
The best alternative is to compost your pumpkins, which also keeps them out of the landfills where they produce harmful methane gas.
Throwing any kind of food refuse into a preserve is a violation of the Forest Preserve District’s General Use Ordinance No. 124.
The ordinance prohibits the feeding of wildlife and it also bans anyone from depositing “trash, rubbish, paper, garbage, refuse, debris, or junk” in the preserves (which would include food refuse) as well as seeds (including pumpkin seeds) from an outside source.
The Forest Preserve District is offering an alternative for jack-o'-lantern disposal that will keep them from being dumped in the preserves or in local landfills.
Bring your pumpkin refuse to the Forest Preserve’s “Stop, Drop and Roll Pumpkin Composting” program, which is scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays from November 6 to November 28 at Plum Creek Nature Center. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.
For other pumpkin composting options, visit the SCARCE organization's Pumpkin Smash website. According to the group, pumpkins disposed of in landfills create methane gas, which is a greenhouse emission that hurts the environment. And landfills are the third biggest source of methane in the United States.
Don't feed the animals
While some people might just push a past-its-prime pumpkin into a garbage can, others think they are doing good by throwing gourd refuse into a natural area for wildlife.
But there are many reasons that wild animals should not be fed. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website, “Feeding leads to public health concerns. Too many animals in one place increases the chance of disease transmission to people and among other wildlife. Animals accustomed to people often lose their fear of people and can become aggressive. Those that become too aggressive may have to be destroyed to protect people and property.”
The agency also states that: Wildlife have specialized diets and can become malnourished or die if fed the wrong foods. Animals gathering in one place increases the chance of disease transmission. Animals accustomed to people can become aggressive. Animals fed along roads increases the chance of vehicle-animal accidents.
The bottom line, according to the USDA? “Enjoy viewing wildlife at a distance. Respect their space and remember they are wild animals that should stay wild."
Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Citizen, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to The Weekly Five, which outlines the five must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.