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
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
- 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
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