By Pamela Collins
As of April 1, it is illegal to feed wildlife or permit the feeding of wildlife on your property, punishable by fines. This includes feeding animals in city parks or on waterways.
Bird lovers will be happy to know that the new bylaw does not apply to songbirds or migrating birds. We can still have a bird feeder in our backyard as long as it is placed so it is not accessible by wildlife and kept clean to avoid mould that could poison animals or birds. Any spilled food should be swept up so it does not attract other wildlife or rats.
The city’s primary focus is to educate Torontonians and has launched a campaign on why it is important to refrain from feeding wild animals.
As quoted by the Star, Esther Attard, chief veterinarian and director of Toronto Animal Services, said feeding wildlife presents risks to both animals and humans. Feeding animals can increase their tolerance for proximity, she said, citing negative interactions with coyotes and foxes. “They’re conditioned to expect food from people,” Attard said. “They approach closer and are more curious because there may be a food reward.”
This can lead to conflict between wild animals, humans and their pets. It can also have a negative effect on our ecosystem as it leads to congregation, increasing the spread of diseases like distemper and avian flu.
Human food is not a natural part of animal diets. For instance, feeding them stale bread can be harmful to the animals’ digestive systems and teeth as it often contains sugar, sodium and carbohydrates. Although we find joy in feeding them, think about what we are doing to their bodies.
The most rewarding and safest way for us to enjoy wildlife is from a distance and allow them to forage for food on their own, as nature intended.
So Peter Rabbit can continue to raid your garden of lettuce and newly emerging juicy bulb greens but you cannot hand those things to him.
You can learn more about the bylaw amendments by visiting the website: toronto.ca/community-people/animals-pets/wildlife-in-the-city/feeding-wildlife