Wild Animal Feeding Safety Risk Linked to Artificial Selection Harassment Behaviors

Risque pour la sécurité lié à l'alimentation des animaux sauvages liée à la sélection artificielle des comportements de harcèlement

Graphs illustrating the effect of deer herd size (a), number of people present (b), time of week (c), time of day (d), and age interacted with sex (e) on the probability of a fallow begging deer (y-axes) in Phoenix Park, Dublin, as predicted by a generalized linear mixed-effects GLMM model. The predicted effects are represented by lines surrounded by marginal 95% confidence intervals. Credit: Journal of Animal Ecology (2022). DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13771

The growing tendency of people to feed wild animals poses a serious risk to the well-being of humans and wildlife, as new research from University College Dublin reveals that these feeding interactions could lead to the artificial selection of harassment behavior in some species.

In a study based on the fallow deer population of Dublin’s Phoenix Park, the largest walled park in any European capital and which receives around 10 million visitors a year, UCD researchers found that the fawns of mothers who constantly begging for food were significantly heavier than those whose mothers rarely approached visitors.

Each of the 134 fawns measured came from the same herds, in the same grazing areas, and all came from mothers who had the same chance of interacting with people, leaving begging behavior as the defining difference that may be at the root. of such disparity in birth weight.

The research, published in the Journal of Animal Ecologyassociates this begging behavioral trait with animals with bolder personality types, which lead author Laura Griffin says could potentially make some animals more aggressive in order to obtain food.

“There is a high risk that this herd will become heavily habituated over time due to the artificial selection we have highlighted here,” said the researcher from the Laboratory of Wildlife Ecology and Behavior of the University. ‘UCD.

“In other words, 10 years from now, if action is not taken, you could end up with deer constantly harassing people, because the boldest individuals have been selected, which clearly carries enormous risks. for the people and animals involved.”

Adding: “It also stands to reason that if this is happening in this population, then it is very likely to be the case in other populations and species as well.”

In the study, the entire Phoenix Park deer population was found to fall into three categories: regular beggars, occasional beggars, and rare beggars, with approximately 24% of the population constantly begging from the food.

Unsurprisingly, these deer who begged more received the greatest amount of human food, including bread, crisps, carrots, apples, and cookies, causing them to have a radically different diet from those classified as rare beggars. and occasional.

Feeding deer in Phoenix Park is prohibited by the Office of Public Works, but the COVID-19 pandemic has seen an increase in park visitors and deer interactions.

The implications for animal health and welfare are many, Laura says, with the behavior raising concerns about changes in animals’ natural behaviors, increased stress and impacts on their health.

The artificial feeding of rhesus monkeys in India, for example, has led to behaviors not normally seen in nature, such as the animals preying on each other in a rush to get food from humans. .

The increased boldness this has fostered has also made it difficult to remove animals from areas bustling with human activity, as they refuse to leave until food is given.

In Japan, deer in Nara Park, a popular tourist attraction in the city of Nara that is home to 1,200 free-roaming wild deer, more than 200 people were injured by the animals in 2019, leading authorities to issue strict safety instructions. to avoid further injury.

“Hand feeding wild animals has become increasingly popular lately,” Laura said. “[With] people often say that it allows them to feel a connection with these animals, that they believe helps them in some way and that it creates good content on their social media accounts. In fact, videos and photos of people feeding wild animals quite often go viral on different social media platforms.

“Nevertheless, it is of fundamental importance that we stop to explore how these interactions affect the fauna involved, especially since these interactions are generally self-motivated, and that we work to test methods to reduce their impact. through public education, which can also be applied to other sites experiencing similar interactions.”

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More information:
Laura L. Griffin et al, Artificial Selection in Human-Wildlife Diet Interactions, Journal of Animal Ecology (2022). DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13771

Provided by University College Dublin

Quote: Wild Animal Feeding Safety Risk Linked to Artificial Selection for Harassment Behavior (2022, August 5) Retrieved August 5, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-safety -wild-animals-linked-artificial.html

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