It’s mighty tempting to feed the deer, gray squirrels, bunnies and other wild critters that wander through Bend’s neighborhoods. Doing so, however, does the animals no favors and can destroy a neighborhood’s harmony.

In fact, in one Bend westside neighborhood wildlife feeding has caused enough problems to persuade residents to ask the city to make feeding wildlife illegal. While such a law might persuade some people to leave the deer pellets at the feed store, others would continue to feed despite the law.

But feeding really isn’t good for wild animals, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services office.

Take deer. Feeding encourages them to congregate in a relatively small space, and that, in turn, draws coyotes and cougars.

Feeding also reduces their fear of people, and when they become pests as a result, death can be the only solution to the problem. Add to that the difficulty of meeting the seasonal nutritional needs of deer, even if you’re feeding commercial deer pellets.

As for squirrels, western gray squirrels are native to the Northwest, but they’re in danger of being forced out by eastern gray squirrels, which are considered an invasive species. Feeding them in your backyard only makes the problem worse.

What’s true for squirrels and deer is also true for bunnies, raccoons and other wild animals. Even backyard bird feeders can cause problems.

It’s tempting to want to feed wild animals in the wintertime, to be sure. It’s cold, and when there’s snow on the ground it’s easy to assume they’re hungry. But human interference in their natural diet and feeding patterns causes more problems than it eases.

23420463