Should You Really Leave Food and Water for Wildlife After Fires?

When horrendous wildfires break out, many of us think of the wildlife: How will animals survive? Even after fleeing the flames,they’llbe wandering through a charred moonscape with no food and water, right?

Inevitably, postsstart popping up on social media encouraging people to leave out food and water for passing animals. You’ve seen them, and you might have even shared them — but wildlife experts want you to know this is actually a very bad idea.

One such widely-circulated examplesaid:

Please, if you live anywhere near the fires: please put our water buckets for wild life. They’re terrified and thirsty. Also please don’t approach wildlife, and keep your companion animals inside. The animals need your help, desperately.

Two out of three pieces of advice there are very good. It’s advisable to keep companion animals indoors in general — but especially after fires, when changes to the landscape, passing fire crews and other disruptions may be frightening or confusing. And it’s also a good idea to avoid approaching wildlife at all times, because wild animals can be unpredictable.

But you really don’t want to put water and/or food out for wildlife — and there are anumber of reasons for this, as biologists have explained to the media nearly every time a major fire sends this advice circulating again.

It’s not good for them

Wild animals have evolved to eat a pretty specific diet. Food well-intentioned humans put out might fail to meet their dietary needs or even make them sick.Plus, there’s a chance the standing water could cultivate insects and microorganisms, potentially causing disease.

It’s an attractant

Animals are incredibly adept at finding food and water — even in very harsh, forbidding landscapes. If humans start putting out food and water, they’ll associate a location with that bounty — no matter if it’sa fire-prone neighborhood. This is one reasonbiologists generally recommend against feeding wildlife.In a terrible scenario, animals like bears or mountain lions could become habituated, identified as pests and relocated or euthanized.

Animals are resilient

Seriously! Wildfires have been happening for a very long time. Some plants have actually evolved to require fire to germinate, and animals have become very adept at surviving too. Some run or fly, while others swim or bury themselves to get away. An animal fleeing a fire won’t stop for a snack or drink of water, because it’s focused on finding safety.

Wildlife officialsaren’tasking you to do this

Often, theseviral posts include a suggestion that authorities areencouragingmembers of the public put out food and water for animals. But this is categorically not true.

So how canyou help wildlife survive fires? It starts with prevention, as Smokey the Bear would like to remind you. But in the aftermath of a fire, you can certainly report distressed animals to authorities and wildlife rehabilitation centers.

If animal rescue is something you’re passionate about, consider training so you can be deployed as a volunteer to help wildlife or domestic animals who need help in fire zones.

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast/Creative Commons

74 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y10 days ago

thanks

SEND
Jack Y
Jack Y10 days ago

thanks

SEND
John J
John J10 days ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
John J
John J10 days ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
Richard B
Richard B25 days ago

thanks

SEND
Sherri S
Sherri Sabout a month ago

Although I feel sorry for wildlife in times of disaster, listen to the experts regarding their care. I think they know better then I do about wildlife needs.

SEND
heather g
heather gabout a month ago

Well, considering sop many irresponsible pet owners abandon their pets, I think it probably helps to keep discarded pets alive.

SEND
Shae Lee
Shae Leeabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Berenice Guedes
Berenice Guedesabout a month ago

Thanks so much for sharing! I don't live in America but I was very worried about wildlife survival after the fires!!!

SEND
Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

They need help like humans Thank you for caring and sharing

SEND