The Forest Preserve District is putting some teeth into its effort to stop people from feeding animals in the preserves.
While the Forest Preserve has always strongly discouraged visitors from interacting with and feeding wildlife, the District’s revised General Use Ordinance 124, which was approved August 13, now bans the activity and violators will be ticketed.
No matter how well-intentioned people are, it is never a good idea to feed wild animals, said Becky Blankenship, the Forest Preserve District’s wildlife biologist.
"Wild animals need to forage for natural, healthy food sources and not rely on humans providing what is essentially junk food,” Blankenship said.
For instance, feeding bread and crackers to ducks and geese can fill them up on carbohydrates and not enough protein or calcium, which can cause diseases that prevent them from flying. And feeding animals with a more natural food can lead to overpopulation of a species.
“Also, feeding wildlife increases the number of interactions with people, which can have severe consequences such as human injury and lead to animal extermination,” Blankenship said.
The more that animals interact with humans, the less afraid they are and they can become pests, she added.
“They will eat from gardens, dig through trash, move into an attic or under a deck and potentially harm pets,” she explained.
Putting out food for animals also can lead to the transmission of diseases because it attracts animals to the same spot and if one is sick, more will become ill.
“For instance, Chronic Wasting Disease is fatal to deer, and can be spread by contaminated saliva on food piles,” Blankenship said.
Concerns about Chronic Wasting Disease in Illinois led to a ban on feeding deer by the state. But individual municipalities set policies about feeding other wildlife. Most agencies allow bird feeders in residential areas.
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Citations will be issued
The Forest Preserve District’s ban on the feeding of animals covers all creatures in its preserves. Those who are found feeding animals in the preserves will be ticketed, said Forest Preserve police Lt. Dave Barrios. Tickets could range from $25 to $100.
“The Forest Preserve Police Department’s mission is not only to safeguard visitors and employees, but also to protect nature,” Barrios said.
“We have received complaints about people feeding wildlife in the preserves and encourage preserve users to stop this behavior,” he added. “You may think that it is harmless, but it is doing more harm than good to the animals as well as your bank account as you could be cited by District police or any law enforcement officer for feeding wildlife.”
Also, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
- Human food is not healthy for wild animals, and they do not need food from humans to survive. Wild animals have specialized diets, and they can become malnourished or die if fed the wrong foods. Also, animals cannot distinguish food from wrappers or foil and can get sick eating these items.
- 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.
- Animals fed along roads tend to stay near roads, increasing the chance of vehicle-animal accidents.
- Large concentrations of ducks and geese can pollute nearby waterways, backyards and athletic fields. Some waterfowl species drop up to a pound of feces every day!
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