People feeding wild animals at Mud Lake becoming a concern

OTTAWA — Welcoming hundreds of visitors daily, Mud Lake is a quiet escape right in the city, drawing in adventurers like Jocelyn Weidenhaupt, who comes with her camera once a week.

“It’s quiet and there are lots of animals any time of the year pretty much something to take a picture of,“ said Weidenhaupt.

A habitat for many animals, Mud Lake is recognized as a popular urban site for bird watching in Canada.

But others taking in the scenery of the wetland near the Ottawa River also come with something else—bird seed, frozen corn, and other little snacks for those living in the wild.

And some have noticed that visitors are feeding the animals more often. It’s an issue that has become worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a concern for Alexander Stone, a Greenbelt and Ontario Urban Lands Program Officer.

“The animals do not need extra food from humans,” he said.

Feeding animals teaches them new behaviours and discourages them from foraging for their own food in the wild. It can also be harmful to humans.

“I saw a person feeding a raccoon and then the the raccoon would take that food and feed it to their kits,” Stone said. “Raccoons, foxes, and coyotes can carry rabies, so we don’t want anyone approaching them possibly to be bit.”

The National Capital Commission encourages people to connect with nature in other ways instead and enjoying the animals in their natural habit like Weidenhaupt, who has been on the hunt all season for a photo of wild turkeys.

“I found them today, they’re almost full grown” she said, as she showed off her photos. “It’s kinda cool.” 

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