OUR VIEW: Wildlife should stay wild

By Observer editorial March 14, 2014 08:42 am

One of the great joys of living in Northeast Oregon is being on the edge of the wilderness.

It’s also one of the great pains. Just ask the people of Union, who have been under siege for years with a voracious deer herd and lots of other assorted critters that have a hankering for city life.

Now the city is taking action. The Union City Council has unanimously approved an ordinance that discourages residents from feeding wildlife under threat of a citation.

It’s a scheme that is overdue. The town deer herd has done inordinate property damage, not to mention making carnage of petunias. The herd is a hazard. That’s especially true with the risk of cougars coming into town seeking a tasty meal — and being a threat to humans.

Sure, feeding wildlife can be fun. It’s a joy to see raccoons, opossums and other assorted creatures up close and to watch their antics.

It can also be dangerous. Wildlife is called “wild” for a reason. Deer may look innocuous, but they are not cartoon characters out of the Disney movie “Bambi.” At any moment, deer can get physically aggressive and cause harm to humans.

Feeding wildlife is not a good idea for people who truly love the deer, raccoons, wild turkeys and other visitors to town.

According to the Paws Wildlife Center, the dangers of feeding wildlife are many. They include habituating the young to depend on human handouts, prohibiting them from developing their own foraging skills.

What’s more, wildlife being fed lose their fear of people. 

Most people who feed wildlife give them food that is not nutritionally sound, not a balanced diet, which is especially important for young and developing critters.

When people feed wildlife, they end up attracting more animals to the area than should be the case.

When wildlife find easy sources of food, that can lead to excessive reproduction. Next thing, there are more critters than carrying capacity.

And, among other dangers, deer coming to town can lead to the importation of ticks that may carry Lyme disease. The ticks are the size of a comma in this editorial, hard to detect, and can cause a human serious health repercussions.

Union residents should use good sense and voluntarily quit feeding wildlife and encouraging their presence in town in excessive numbers. Sure, there will always be some wildlife wandering through town. But we should do what we can to keep them wild.