OP/ED: Feeding Grand Forks deer no different than feeding bears

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
August 19th, 2010

As I sit writing in my office there is a family of deer grazing not five feet outside my screen door. A young buck, a doe and a fawn are scattered across my yard and wandering back and forth across the road. If it seems there is a plethora of animal articles this week, the coincidence can’t be missed – we live in rural B.C. with wild animals and we live with the consequences of that.   There’s a herd of raccoons in my neighbourhood, nearby friends say they’ve seen a black bear roaming, and I’ve seen a cougar too. We think we live in a city, but we’re constantly reminded that this town is in the middle of wild area. It’s what we love about living here, but then we start to mess with it all.   And the message in all of it is that we need to stop feeding the wildlife. It’s not just the people who deliberately feed animals, although I’d love to know why they all live on corner lots in dangerous spots for vehicle traffic, but its all of us who provide the delicacies that they love.   The raccoons are into cat food (or dog food, I’m sure they’re not fussy) that many people leave outside for their own animals. The bears never say no to garbage, and the cougars, well, they’re just here for the hunting whether that’s little Fido or old deer. Open composts are great smorgasbords, and there is more than one old fruit tree that no one picks anymore around town. Not to mention all those wonderful, tasty little flowers that the deer love to nibble.   While some people see the deer nibbling on their plants as sharing or weed control, it is a deliberate way of feeding the wildlife. Did I mention that feeding the wildlife is illegal? Does that mean we are all responsible? In some ways, yes I think it does.   Whether it’s the lady up in Fife feeding the bears because she feels sorry for them, to the people who put out feed for deer in the winter, to those of us who plant our gardens and don’t protect them, we all play a part in the growth of the population and their habituation to humans.   And then we’re all upset and accusatory when the powers that be have to step in and kill animals. As Martin Mersereau from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in an interview, “You cannot feed wildlife without blood on your hands.”   We can’t just point fingers at the lady up in Fife and say, well she shouldn’t have fed those dangerous bears, while we assist in the propagation of multitudes of deer. There’s really very little difference. Just because Bambi doesn’t bite, it doesn’t make it o.k. to make friends with her. By the way, there’s been more than one dog killed by cute little Bambi so don’t think she can’t be dangerous too. 

So yes, you need to put a lid on your compost, fence your yard if you want to plant comfrey, keep cat food inside, and pick up that fruit falling from the tree on the corner. We live in a place where we have constant contact with wildlife, and need to build our environment accordingly.

Only once we have dealt with our own environment can we, maybe, look to our neighbours and be critical. Until then we cannot claim to be any better than the woman in Fife feeding bears, and we all bear the responsibility for the decisions being made to kill. 

Categories: Op/Ed