Don’t Feed Corn to Wild Animals

Please be careful about where your good intentions lead! Especially around this time of year, a lot of people will feed wildlife to try to help them prepare for winter. Because corn is cheap and is readily eaten by most mammals, it’s a common choice for supplemental food.

Native wild animals don’t need our help preparing for winter: they evolved alongside their food sources to have exactly what they need during each time of year. Some animals, like chipmunks and jays, prepare form winter by storing natural autumn foods like acorns and nuts. Others, like many songbirds, migrate. Deer change their digestive systems to adapt to a low-calorie woody diet. Most animals drastically reduce their activity level to conserve energy. Seasonal changes are a normal, natural, and beautiful part of the balance of nature, and we don’t need to intervene in animals’ seasonal diets any more than we need to intervene in the fruiting of plants or the changing of leaves.

Even if you insist on feeding wildlife corn is not a healthy meal for most wild animals. Compared to natural foods, corn is high in sugar and calories and low in vitamins and minerals, sort of like the animal equivalent of a Snickers bar. While occasionally raising sweet corn from a garden won’t cause most animals much trouble, they can become very sick if they eat it routinely.

Waterfowl who eat too much corn are at risk for angelwing syndrome, which renders them unable to fly. Raccoons, opossums, and squirrels who eat too much of it can develop liver disease and bone deformities. Deer who eat corn after their winter metabolic changes often succumb to ketoacidosis because their bodies can’t process sugar. Bears who begin eating corn will get excited about the hand-outs and killed when they get cozy around people.

Another problem: rats and mice love corn more than nearly any other wild animals, and you’ll end up with a lot of them if you leave it out as a food source!

Please don’t feed corn to wild animals. You can keep them healthy in fall and winter by giving them space, protecting their habitats, keeping your pets indoors, and growing native plants.

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