These young raccoons will steal your heart, and the food in your bag

July 14, 2014, 1 p.m.
racoon family

Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch/MNN Flickr Group

Triple the trouble

These three young raccoon siblings are learning the art of begging in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Sitting at the edge of the walking path, they're just waiting for human passersby to be overwhelmed by the cuteness and pause to dole out snacks -- despite the "Do Not Feed Wildlife" sign posted to the tree right next to where these raccoons are waiting. Raccoons are one of the best examples of why we do, and why we shouldn't, feed wildlife.

Let's face it, raccoons are cute. And it's hard not to want to interact with something so adorable. But while some people don't see the harm in handing a couple of chips or a piece of stale bread to an urban animal, the reality is that a small act of supposed kindness can cause a wide range of problems. First, human food is typically bad for the animals scarfing it up, causing health problems in the long run. But that's only an issue if the animal lives long enough to feel the negative consequences. The abundance of food causes an artificial population rise and with it an increase in injuries or diseases. And feeding wildlife also acclimates them to humans, drawing them closer to roads and property where they can be hit by cars or killed by domestic animals, or causes conflict with humans which leads to the trapping and killing of the wildlife by animal control officials. 

So while you may love to see wildlife in your yard or neighborhood parks, carefully consider if and how you provide food to your furry or feathered neighbors.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.