It Started With A Hit of Sardines

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“For me it started with one hit of sardines…” says a dolphin in the latest video PSA released as a joint effort between NOAA, Mote Marine Laboratory, SeaWorld, Disney’s Animal Programs, Dolphin Quest, Dolphin Conservation Center of Marineland and several other supporting facilities. Don’t Feed Wild Dolphins is a website that shouldnt be necessary. However, it delivers a succinct and important message; when we interrupt natural feeding behavior for any animal, we put them at risk.

Researchers have documented a slew of negative impacts on fed wild dolphins from resultant shark attacks on caught-unaware-dolphins and serious injuries from boat propellers to competition between calves and mothers that starves calves. Several bites – some very serious – have also been documented and many dolphins have died after ingesting foreign objects and people food. In one of the more tragic cases, dolphin calves being fed in the Indian River Lagoon died after eating native pufferfish that are, on occasion, carriers of saxitoxin.

I love that the video features other wildlife that also face huge risks from consistently being fed by people. While bears are not usually affected by handouts here in Florida, raccoons certainly are as are brown pelicans, manatees, alligators, wood storks and other imperiled wildlife. I’ve even heard of people feeding gopher tortoises, bobcats, and river otters. It doesnt matter if the animal is aggressive, dangerous, gentle, or otherwise. Feeding them doesn’t help, it only hurts. We need to re-establish their natural food sources and restore their habitat areas to truly provide for the future of our marine and terrestrial wildlife.

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