How feeding birds feeds bears and coyotes

A picture of a black bear eating seed from a bird feeder.
Black bears (Ursus americanus) will take increased risks and get closer to people in order to get to highly valued bird seed.
Photo by Alvina Spence / Getty Images

The notion that leaving out bird seed for the songbirds of a neighbourhood could be directly drawing in bears, coyotes, or other large animals can seem irrational to some. But the reality is that food is food – and in nature, who the food was left for doesn’t matter.

Bird seed, which often contains high-protein or high-fat foods like millet, cracked corn, and sunflower seeds, are favourites of many songbirds. When left on a trail, a backyard, or a natural area, birds will flock to the seed.

What we may not see is that rodents such as mice and rats will also flock to the seed (often at night). The mice and rats are primary food sources for various birds of prey, and animals like foxes and coyotes.

Black bears also love the high-calorie, high-fat allure of bird seed, particularly during spring or autumn when their hunger is at its highest.

Feeding, regardless of the target animal, changes the behaviour of many animals within an ecosystem, even if we don’t see it. Animals who become more comfortable around people as a result of the food, or learn to approach people with the expectation of food, are often killed by government agents. The animals may also take greater risks to access food, like crossing busy roads, being near predators, or getting into conflict with another individual from their species.

If you want to support wildlife in your area, consider working with a naturalist group, your municipality, or on your own property to ensure native plant life and naturalization principles are supporting the entire ecosystem.

Please consider sharing this article or our video (click here for YouTube, and click here for an Instagram reel) to show people the unfortunate consequences of feeding.

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