We have all seen them…those ‘cute’ images of native wildlife interacting with domestic animals such as dogs and cats. These days they are plastered all over social media and from time to time they go viral.
I get it, it does look cute to see a fawn cuddled up with a dog, but what as humans we often forget is the aftermath. When I see images like that I cringe because I know it reduces the quality of life and lifespan of the wild animal involved significantly.
Many species of wildlife are born without fear of humans (or our pets) and exposing them to either of these at a young age will leave a lasting effect.
Imagine this same dog-cuddling fawn grown up and it encounters a random dog (or dog like creature such as a wolf). Without a natural fear we know this will end badly for the deer.
The same goes for human habituated wildlife. Picture the previously mentioned deer encountering a random human in the wild. What if this is a human with a gun? The deer is suppose to be afraid and run or better yet avoid humans all together but early on in its life it was taught not to fear humans.
Now imagine doing the same with some of our large carnivores/omnivores. Imagine a bear approaching you… In the bears mind he is going to see if the human has food (like he has been taught), or let’s think of a fox/wolf/coyote doing the same. These animals in this example will all end up getting shot because they will be considered a threat to humans.
As to how (early) human exposure impacts wildlife varies per species. Some species are more susceptible than others. The fact that I mention a deer in the examples is not random. Fawns (deer) are easily habituated at a young age.
If you find wildlife you think needs help please get professionals involved as soon as possible. You can check our website for more advice and contact information.
I have experience trying to undo human and pet habituation in wildlife and it is difficult and sometimes impossible. It often leaves me frustrated because often people choose not to understand what damage they have done.
I have witnessed fawns having major freak-outs upon first con-specific interaction. They simply have no idea that they belong to that species. It is a sad phenomenon to witness.
The same goes for wildlife photography. As we currently experience an influx of Snowy Owls, stories of photographers baiting these animals to get the perfect shot keep reaching me. These photographers do not realize they are jeopardizing the life and well being of the animal they claim to admire.
Let’s make 2015 the year where we enjoy wildlife from afar, in their natural habitat, away from humans (and their food sources) and away from our pets.
Let’s stop awarding photographers for pictures of wildlife taken through use of baiting and let’s stop sharing images and videos detrimental to wild-wildlife and natural behavior.
Let’s make it the year where we leave wildlife to be wild…