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Why Does Wildlife Come Into My Yard"

Updated on January 1, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

With 30 years in the pet supply industry, Bob's newspaper column deals with animal health, nutrition, behavior, regulation, and advocacy.


A Modern Day Love/Hate Relationship

A customer comes to the counter with a deer salt lick, some squirrel corn, and 10 pounds of scratch feed for the wild turkeys that pass through her yard. The next customer has a bottle of predator urine, a bottle of Deer Off®, and a live animal trap.

And so it goes, in this day and age of sharing our space with the woodland creatures we're forcing into our space. According to my own calculations, half of you love 'em, a quarter of you like 'em but think they're a nuisance, and a quarter of you hate 'em.

More and more people are feeding woodland creatures these days because they love to watch them in their back yards. And the practice is not without controversy. Some environmental or animal advocacy organizations frown upon it, some don't necessarily frown upon it, and still others simply turn a blind eye to it. And the general public does what it wants, anyway.

You may be wondering if your humble reporter has an opinion on the practice. An opinion on something? Moi? This may come as a surprise, but I do, indeed.

There are humane organizations that tolerate the practice, but with an asterisk. They won't yell at you for feeding wildlife as long as the animal isn't harmed, or put in harm's way, by the practice.

For example, by feeding inappropriate food, especially human food, or luring them from across the road, or placing the food in an area that would subject them to danger, either natural or man-made.

Then there are organizations that would absolutely be in your face for encouraging wild animals. Well, as a person who watches a lot of folks buy products to discourage wild animals, I can tell you they don't need encouragement. They're here, whether you play a part or not.

I would, however, disqualify most wild animals from a backyard feeding program and limit the "accepted list" to wild birds, game birds, squirrels and deer.

I was always envious of people who had wild turkeys pass through their yard. Now I've got the critters coming up on my deck, feeding under the bird feeder I have there.

It started in August of 2013 (which is when I updated this hub) as a hen and three poults climbed the stairs to my deck, which is about 12 feet off the ground.

They come up several times each day. I don't know what they'll do when the poults strike out on their own. I expect they'll join a flock and introduce their flockmates to our deck. Stay tuned. (Note to self: you know you're gonna forget to update this)


You can buy nutritionally appropriate feed for those species, they stand a better chance at evading predation, and they don't normally pose a safety threat to humans.

Of course, there are the automatic caveats: any animal is unpredictable, they can spread disease and parasites, and they can become a nuisance. For example, you may have a ball feeding the deer, but your neighbor is pulling his hair out because they're decimating his ornamental plantings.

I certainly wouldn't encourage raccoons or skunks (yes, I've known people who leave food out for the cute little skunk that passes through the yard) because they can become habituated and very bold and aggressive when they don't get their way. In addition, they're primary vectors for rabies.


I wouldn't encourage rabbits, either, but only because you could be setting them up for an attack by hawks, foxes or coyotes.

If you elect to feed wildlife you should do so with their welfare ahead of your desire to observe them from the comfort of your favorite chair. Feeders should be located near natural cover, so that the animals can easily disappear into their element if danger appears.

Food needs to be consistent with their natural diet. Bread, leftover bagels, muffins, or popcorn are not appropriate. They're not nutritionally relevant and some animals don't have the necessary digestive apparatus to extract any nutrition at all from them.


One could argue that feeding wildlife is a way in which the average person can practice conservation…certainly it’s a good way to introduce small children to the concept of conservation. And, you’ll be teaching them an interesting and fun hobby that they’ll be able to enjoy for the next 80 or 90 years.

Another benefit is that gift giving occasions would become a snap. What backyard naturalist wouldn't love another bird feeder, 50 lbs. of birdseed, or a gift card to their favorite feed and grain store or other places where they shop.

For the most part, backyard feeding is supplemental. The animals' primary diet remains the flora and fauna they naturally consume. Still, there are feeds available that are complete and balanced, and those make excellent choices for backyard feeding.

No matter if you're "fer 'em or agin 'em," continued habitat encroachment by homo sapiens assures that wild animals will be in our backyards whether we otherwise encourage them or not.

Do you feed backyard wildlife?

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    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Patty, there wasn't much to jive about when I was 25...long gas lines, the odd/even system where if your license plate ended in an even number, you could buy gas on Mon, Wed, or Fri, odds would buy on Tue, Thurs, or Sat. Back then, everything was closed on Sunday. And mortgage rates were in the high teens. On the positive side, I had hair back then!

      Hi Nadine, I wish I had a feed and grain store in your town. You'd be one of my best wild bird customers! Your local birds, and summertime visitors will appreciate you.

      Hi Eddy, thanks for the kind words. The human/wildlife dynamic varies by region here in America. Where I live, most people enjoy having it around, but in some parts of the country wild animals that invade yards are shot or poisoned. While I find that unacceptable, other just take it in stride.

      Thank you all for stopping by and commenting. Regards, Bob

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful hub which I save in with my favourites.

      Thanks for sharing and enjoy your weekend.


    • Nadene Seiters profile image

      Nadene Seiters 5 years ago from Elverson, PA

      Bob, I try to plant sunflowers and the like to supplement during the summer, but you're absolutely right. I never really thought of that, it looks like I'll be the crazy bird lady with bird feeders all over my yard next summer. :)

    • Pages-By-Patty profile image

      Pages-By-Patty 5 years ago from Midwest

      Oh, thanks so much, Mr. Bamberg! Although 50 may be nifty....25 would really jive! :)

      But I must remember to be thankful for nifty as some people never got the chance.

      Have a great weekend!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Patty, does the the big 5-oh bother you? It was the six-oh that bothered me a little because it was starting to sound old. I just started collecting my Social Security after paying into it for 50 years, and that takes some of the sting out of it. I'm 66 but feel 46. Age truly is a state of mind. I hope you have a great day Monday...50 is nifty!

    • Pages-By-Patty profile image

      Pages-By-Patty 5 years ago from Midwest

      I, too, lost a feral colony of 4 cats to a coyote. It was heartbreaking. All I could think of was how Papa was too old to run faster...

      And, Peanuts is a wonderful story!!! Love it! I have a similar one. My great-grandmother used to feed a squirrel Oreo cookies. She also had this guy eating out of her hand. But my story has an unhappy ending so I'll leave it at that. I was 10 years old (and turn the big 5-0 on Monday!) but I've never forgotten that story...and yours reminded me of my great-grandma! :)

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Nadene, it's great to have you back. A lot of folks stop feeding in the warmer weather as you do, but I encourage them not to.

      The spring and summer are stressful times for birds because it's their breeding period. That places greater demands on their bodies as they compete for mates and territories, then defend against predators who can come after the sitting female. Then when the clutch hatches, there's almost non-stop feeding and defending they have to do.

      As summer fades, the insect population dwindles and the crop of berries, etc. begins to run out, so a full feeder would be much appreciated.

      If your neighbor has a woodchuck problem again next year, tell her to buy some coyote urine...unless she can get the local Canis latrans to pee in a cup for her. Used properly...and I emphasize can be very effective against woodchucks and rabbits that ravage gardens. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Regards, Bob

      Hi Patty, nice to see you. People can dislike wildlife because it often is destructive to property. With some patience and conservation measures, however, a peaceful co-existence can be achieved.

      We have deer in our downtown section as well. I saw a doe cross from the YMCA and run between the court house and the library one morning at about 5:30. Her hooves on the pavement caused her to do an amusing slip and slide that would have made a cartoon character proud. She didn't fall, though.

      We have coyotes, wild turkeys and the usual woodland creatures as well. Every year there are sad stories about cats and small dogs being taken by coyotes. My son lost a cat to a coyote about 15 years ago.

      Your squirrel story takes me back to the early 60's when I first joined the service. My Mom hand-fed a squirrel peanuts every day and she treasured that trust. She named him Peanuts (took her along time to come up with that name :)

      If Mom wasn't out on the porch by around 9 AM, Peanuts would jump up on the screen and hang on there till she forked over the goods. She sent me pictures of him doing that so I wouldn't be homesick. I've still got an old fuzzy Polaroid of that somewhere. Thanks for stopping by, commenting, and igniting a blast down memory lane. Regards, Bob

    • Pages-By-Patty profile image

      Pages-By-Patty 5 years ago from Midwest

      Oh, I don't know how anyone could dislike, much less hate, a wildlife creature. We lived in a house once that had about an acre behind it and a little bit of wooded area. Although it was considered within the city, we saw deer roaming at night in the back yard. Just love 'em!

      And I just love opossums. They're so sweet and the ferals hang out with them like they're all one big happy family.

      Oh, and I have a squirrel that is trained to come into the yard when it hears my back door...I'll open the door and see it running across the power lines, hop to the neighbor's tree, jump to the garage roof and shimmy down my tree and run up to the steps of the back porch. I give him a little food and he's happy as a lark! :)

    • Nadene Seiters profile image

      Nadene Seiters 5 years ago from Elverson, PA

      I'm back!

      I am sandwiched between a preserve and a state park. Both of which have considerable acreage. Therefore, wildlife is extremely abundant in my back yard, my front yard, my side yards, and on my rooftop! There's a parade at night time over my 2 and 1/2 acres because of the bird feeders I have placed about fifty feet from my home. It's funny though, my neighbor had a problem with ground hogs in her garden and I didn’t have one creature in my garden, except for birds eating the bugs.

      I do not feed anything during the spring, summer, and fall months. However, during the winter time if I see an animal that is obviously starving I throw out extra seed on the ground and I have to admit if I don’t have anything else I put out a few pieces of bread. I fed a small opossum throughout winter once with assorted fruit and leftover dog food. I make my own dog food with raw chicken and other assorted ingredients. The opossum was not so small after that winter, I recall seeing it a few times after it got warm, but it did not hang around.