Warning: Don't feed moose, other wildlife

Bird feeders should e cleaned annually, and positioned well out of reach of any bears

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2003

Alaskans all know or should know that it's not only against the law to feed wild animals, it's harmful and often fatal for the animal.

However, when the snow flies and the cold wintry winds blow, it's hard to resist the temptation to lend a helping hand to the furry or feathered creatures of the forest.

"Absolutely provide no food for moose," said Jeff Selinger, area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on the Kenai Peninsula.

He said that if people were to put out hay for moose to eat during winter when their natural browse is hard to find, the attractive, tasty feed could actually kill the animals.

A moose's digestive system is set to digest plant matter from the wild such as willow twigs and branches and is not prepared to digest feed such as hay.

The moose naturally would be attracted to the hay, but being unable to digest it, the animals would not derive any nutrition from the hay and could, in fact, starve to death.

People are allowed to have bird feeders, the biologist said, but he advised being careful to position feeders high and out of reach of bears.

"Even in the middle of winter, a sudden warm spell or disturbance of a den can get a bear out of its den," he said.

He suggests hoisting feeders on a string so they easily can be lowered for cleaning and refilling, then raised again to be out of the reach of bears and other animals.

Bird feeders should be cleaned at least once a year, according to Liz Jozwiak, wildlife biologist for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

"If you don't clean out bird feeders, you risk the chance of contamination from feces that could cause salmonella bacteria," Jozwiak said.

To prevent a bacterial infection in birds visiting the backyard feeder, she suggests cleaning the avian eateries with a solution of bleach before putting the feeders out in winter.

Refuge Manager Robin West said bird feeders also can cause problems for moose, as well as bears, and said sometimes, predators such as owls and cats actually learn to zero in on feeders for a fowl meal.

Artificial feed will harm animals such as moose in the long run, he said, adding that it's best overall to leave wild animals alone.

One central Kenai Peninsula resident who has been feeding wild birds here for 20 years said she has never had a visit to her feeders by a bear.

To attract the most varied assortment of feathered friends in winter, Maria Allison suggests using a mixture of cracked sunflower and black oil sunflower seeds.

"We also put out a corncob that brings in the stellar jays," Allison said.

Thistle seed attracts pine siskins and redpolls to her yard on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

She said she and her husband also hang suet baskets and peanut butter to help birds keep warm in winter and have rigged up an electric heater on a pan of water so the visitors can get a drink while they dine.

She said the heater is used only long enough to melt ice and provide open water for her avian guests.

Bird feeders should be cleaned annually, positioned well out of reach of any bears

Warning: Don't feed moose, other wildlife

By PHIL HERMANEK

Peninsula Clarion

Alaskans all know or should know that it's not only against the law to feed wild animals, it's harmful and often fatal for the animal.

However, when the snow flies and the cold wintry winds blow, it's hard to resist the temptation to lend a helping hand to the furry or feathered creatures of the forest.

"Absolutely provide no food for moose," said Jeff Selinger, area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on the Kenai Peninsula.

He said that if people were to put out hay for moose to eat during winter when their natural browse is hard to find, the attractive, tasty feed could actually kill the animals.

A moose's digestive system is set to digest plant matter from the wild such as willow twigs and branches and is not prepared to digest feed such as hay.

The moose naturally would be attracted to the hay, but being unable to digest it, the animals would not derive any nutrition from the hay and could, in fact, starve to death.

People are allowed to have bird feeders, the biologist said, but he advised being careful to position feeders high and out of reach of bears.

"Even in the middle of winter, a sudden warm spell or disturbance of a den can get a bear out of its den," he said.

He suggests hoisting feeders on a string so they easily can be lowered for cleaning and refilling, then raised again to be out of the reach of bears and other animals.

Bird feeders should be cleaned at least once a year, according to Liz Jozwiak, wildlife biologist for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

"If you don't clean out bird feeders, you risk the chance of contamination from feces that could cause salmonella bacteria," Jozwiak said.

To prevent a bacterial infection in birds visiting the backyard feeder, she suggests cleaning the avian eateries with a solution of bleach before putting the feeders out in winter.

Refuge Manager Robin West said bird feeders also can cause problems for moose, as well as bears, and said sometimes, predators such as owls and cats actually learn to zero in on feeders for a fowl meal.

Artificial feed will harm animals such as moose in the long run, he said, adding that it's best overall to leave wild animals alone.

One central Kenai Peninsula resident who has been feeding wild birds here for 20 years said she has never had a visit to her feeders by a bear.

To attract the most varied assortment of feathered friends in winter, Maria Allison suggests using a mixture of cracked sunflower and black oil sunflower seeds.

"We also put out a corncob that brings in the stellar jays," Allison said.

Thistle seed attracts pine siskins and redpolls to her yard on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

She said she and her husband also hang suet baskets and peanut butter to help birds keep warm in winter and have rigged up an electric heater on a pan of water so the visitors can get a drink while they dine.

She said the heater is used only long enough to melt ice and provide open water for her avian guests.



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