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Fairbanks wildlife veterinarian warns of dangers in feeding wildlife

Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 4:22 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A Fairbanks wildlife veterinarian is warning of the dangers involved in feeding wildlife after Alaska Wildlife Troopers had to put down a moose in Palmer.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday, February 3rd that a moose in the Matanuska Valley had to be put down by Alaska Wildlife Troopers due to a safety risk. The moose had been fed by humans and was reported to have no fear of people, so it was put down to prevent potential danger and the meat was donated to charity.

Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen, Wildlife Veterinarian with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game told us, “When they get fed by people, they get familiar with people and consider people to be a source of food, and they lose their fear of people. So they will come up to, or approach, or even attack other people looking to try and get food from them. It changes their behavior and that makes them lose their fear, and they can become aggressive towards people. That’s what causes that public nuisance, why the troopers and Fish and Game might have to kill the animal, or someone might kill it as a defense of life and property because they’re being attacked.”

Its not just moose either. Dr. Beckmen explained that bears can also pose a danger when fed by humans. “It happens mostly with moose and bears. People attract bears to greasy barbecues they have left out, or food or garbage. Then the bears look to people for food, they lose their fear of being around people, and then they end up having to be killed. They might attack someone or become a nuisance and then they end up being killed.”

The dangers aren’t just for humans. Feeding wildlife can be dangerous for the animal as well.

“The food that people feed them can be dangerous and detrimental to the wildlife. Most people don’t realize that during the winter especially, that moose are... their rumen is adapted for really low value food. They eat bark and twigs, and if they get into a richer food such as grain or carrots or something like that, it can cause a change in the Ph balance of their digestive tract and cause them to get ulcers and bloat, and they can die,” said Dr. Beckmen.

Even feeding unintentionally can pose a risk to wildlife.

“We’ve had other animals get killed and/or die because they had gotten into human food that was left around and ate the plastic or springs or wires that are associated with it. That has also caused mortality. Even unintentional feeding can really be detrimental to the animals, so it’s really important to secure your garbage and things like that so they don’t get into it. But definitely, intentional feeding is dangerous and it’s illegal,” commented Dr. Beckmen.

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