Busting Myths:

"Wild animals will starve in winter if I don't feed them!"

Do wild animals need handouts to survive the winter? It's a common belief, and if you are considering giving wildlife a helping hand during hard times you are to be commended for your concern and compassion. The truth is, wild animals are quite capable of finding their own food, even during the coldest depths of winter. Offering them human supplied handouts may actually do more harm than good.

Why is it harmful?

Repeated handouts tend to draw large numbers of animals to the same location. This recurring use of an area can spread disease among the animals through contact with each other, with feces or contaminated food. For wild mammals, such as squirrels, Coyotes and Raccoons, human handouts may lead to habituation. Animals who have begun to see humans as a source of food will often lose their fear and begin to behave in ways that bring them into conflict with pets and people.

A better way to help

The best way to give wild animals a hand is to give them habitat, not handouts. Plant native vegetation to provide natural food sources. Create brush piles, rock piles and other habitat that will provide cover in inclement weather. Give them the resources they need to stay wild, healthy and independent. In the long run you will do a great service to both wildlife and the humans who share their space.

Sign Up for PAWS E-newsletters!

Contact Information

* denotes a required field

Which regular PAWS Newsletters would you like to receive?

Please check all that apply

E-mail this Page

E-mail this Page

Like what you see? Send a link to this page via e-mail. We respect your privacy. Neither you nor your friend will be added to PAWS’ mailing list.

Security Code

Thank you!

Your message has been sent.

Note: We will do our best to respond to your email on the next weekday. For an immediate answer, please give us a call.


I'm sorry, your message was not sent. Double-check your security code. If this error persists, please contact us at (425) 787-2500 or info@paws.org.

Fatal Error

I'm sorry, there was a fatal error sending your message. We cannot process your request at this time. please contact our support team at (425) 787-2500 or info@paws.org.