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Feeding Wildlife

Wildlife regulations state that, "No person shall touch or feed wildlife in a park or entice wildlife to approach by holding out ..... foodstuffs". (Section 4 (2) (f))

Problems linked to feeding wildlife arise when animals pursue visitors and occasionally threaten public safety. The animals also face threats to their health and safety.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Animals lose their caution around vehicles, leading to an increase in road killed wildlife and car accidents.

  • A viral disease called "contagious ecthema" (soremouth) can be transmitted to humans. If saliva from an infected bighorn sheep enters a cut on your hand, you may end up with infectious mouth sores and gum rot.

  • Handouts can be linked to overcrowding and increased incidence of disease in animal populations. Ticks can be passed to humans in close contact with infected animals.

  • High populations of sheep and deer may attract predators, like cougars, into populated areas.

  • Butting or pawing of persons by over-anxious deer or sheep has occurred, resulting in human injury, particularly to small children.

  • Animals who learn that aggressive behaviour is rewarded with food become more aggressive and may have to be destroyed.

  • Defending their young against danger is normal behaviour for all animals, even mule deer does. Dogs and small children may be perceived as a threat to fawns. Aggression in close association with humans and their pets has become a concern in the Waterton townsite.

  • Habituation of wildlife to unnatural food sources may upset their natural seasonal migration.

  • Eating and choking on garbage sometimes results in the death of wildlife. In 1976, a moose died at Cameron Lake because it ate and choked on a table cloth. Other contents found in her stomach were; pot scrubbers, tape, wire, a nylon cord and plastics. Once animals are habituated to eating human garbage, they often do not discriminate food leftovers from Styrofoam cups!

  • Unsecured food and garbage is the greatest contributor to wildlife becoming conditioned to humans and to non-natural food sources. It also leads to more animal relocations and more animal deaths (especially of bears) than any other wildlife-human conflict in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Are tame mule deer, bighorn sheep, chipmunks, moose -all begging for food instead of foraging naturally - the kind of wildlife appropriate to a national park? We need your help to reduce these situations.


Coleman, Mary. 1993. Management Options for the Control of Wildlife Habituation in Waterton Lakes National Park. Warden Service, Parks Canada, Waterton Lakes National Park


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