After the Fires: Please Don't Feed the Wild Animals

Feeding wild animals in Southern California's recently burned areas won't help the creatures and may even put them and people in danger, says a UC Davis wildlife expert with extensive research experience in the region.

Walter Boyce is co-director of the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center and has been studying deer, bighorn sheep and mountain lions in the Cuyamaca-Borrego area for many years. He said that setting out hay and grain for deer could:

  • Cause deer to linger in still-green yards instead of dispersing to unburned or recovering natural areas, which are plentiful, despite appearances to the contrary. This could lead to disease and injuries.
  • Make deer sick by filling them with unfamiliar foods that they are not able to digest or benefit from nutritionally.
  • Lure deer predators -- mountain lions -- dangerously close to easier prey, such as people, livestock, hobby animals such as llamas and goats, and pets such as cats and dogs. In California, when a mountain lion is deemed a threat to people or hunts domestic animals, it typically is killed.

For these and other reasons, feeding wildlife is illegal. "But I'm seeing that feeding deer is already widespread around Julian," Boyce said. "This could be bad for people and bad for animals."

The best thing people can do for all the animals in burned areas is leave them alone, Boyce said. "There still are areas that provide food, water and cover, and the wild animals can and will find them. The fire and resulting new growth will dramatically improve the habitat for deer and many other species. The land will actually support more animals after the fire than before."

Media Resources

Kat Kerlin, Research news (emphasis on environmental sciences), 530-750-9195,

Walter Boyce, Wildlife Health Center, (530) 752-1401,

Secondary Categories

Science & Technology Human & Animal Health