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.
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.
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.