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View Full Version : Gray Jays...to feed or not to feed?



grouseking
02-26-2006, 11:19 AM
Before I ask my question, I must make a statement. Gray Jays are annoying! I have only experienced them twice but on both occasions I could barely eat my food without them swooping down and attempting to take my food. They are opportunistic little buggers. At the same time they are one of the most interesting birds I have ever seen, and of course they are quite cute.

Now to my question...and I guess a complaint as well. Why do we feed them so much food? It can't be good for them because I would think they become dependant on us. As long as there are peakbaggers I guess the jays will always be hanging around summits or campsites but what happens if there arent too many visitors? Have they become so dependant on human interaction that if we were to stop hiking, they wouldn't know how to get food on their own? I see so many pics of people feeding jays and I just wonder how they'd do without us around after all of the handouts.

grouseking

Waumbek
02-26-2006, 12:56 PM
It is not a good practice to feed them. Even when we do feed them and then disappear for awhile, they are survivors. They'll eat almost anything, including lichen, dead rodents, etc. They evidently have a high cache recovery rate. Lots of birds and animals hide food but do not find it again. Gray jays do.

Neil
02-26-2006, 06:02 PM
The term "bird-brain" takes on new meaning!
Look here (http://neil.webcentre.ca/outdoor%20pursuits/mtnoir/Montagne%20Noire%20018.jpg) for proof that the brain has no pain receptors. The little orange thingy is actually a piece of my post-frontal cortex.

NH_Mtn_Hiker
02-26-2006, 06:36 PM
My name is Bob, and I'm a recovering Gray Jay feeder. :o

Kevin Rooney
02-26-2006, 08:37 PM
My name is Bob, and I'm a recovering Gray Jay feeder. :oCount me in, too.

LenDawg
02-26-2006, 08:49 PM
Count me in, too.


Busted. I too am a recovering gray jay feeder.

Waumbek
02-26-2006, 09:05 PM
Very funny, guys, but Grouseking's basic question is an important one. People used to think it was cute and harmless to feed the bears. (I can even remember when it was considered "nice" to feed caged deer cigarette tobacco!!) Then we learned it was deadly for bears. To feed them is to kill them with kindness. They get addicted to the path of least resistance to food. It sounds like birds are different. They'll feast off a feeder but revert readily to natural food sources if the easy meal disappears. Audubon Society says there isn't much research and that probably there's no "dependency" issue in feeding wild birds because you are only supplementing what they eat. But the research isn't there yet to say that with certainty.


Does backyard feeding create a population of "dependent" birds?
While research in this area is limited, so far studies suggest that backyard feeders are not creating a population of dependent wintering birds.

Will birds suffer if feeders go empty?
Natural food supplies are typically exhausted during winter, as birds consume all the seeds and fruits at one location before moving on to the next. Similarly, if backyard feeders go empty while homeowners are on vacation, birds will look elsewhere for food. If your neighbors are also providing food, birds from your feeders will likely spend more time feeding there. Since feeders only supplement natural foods, most species will not suffer if feeders go empty for days or even weeks at a time.

Neil
02-27-2006, 05:19 AM
Seeing as how this thread has great potential, potential to outrun the great antler debate,that is, I'll have my say now, and forever hold my peace.

Sharing a bit of trail mix with a Grey Jay and his buddies is inoccuous. The actual percentage of hiker derived calories that such a windfall supplies to our avian friends is insignifigant relative their regular diet. And even if the Jays around crowded spots like Marcy Dam did get a little paunchy and rear slightly larger broods? There would still be enough moose antlers to go around.

Puck
02-27-2006, 07:52 AM
Great question. I just submitted an article to Natural New England magazine that covers this very question. I interviewed LNT Master Educators, somebody retired from the forest service who has made 100 Mizpah-JAckson loop trips to see these birds as well as an ornithologist who has studied these birds for over 12 years.

My conclusion...It is a grey issue. Like was mentioned research does not exist, especially for this bird. any information of population trends in the whites is anecdotal. An Audubon Christmas Bird count was just started in Crawford Notch in Dec, however, it will take some time to gather enough data to get a trend.

bill bowden
02-27-2006, 08:18 AM
Grey jays have been cadging handouts from hikers and lumberjacks for generations. You don't really need to feed them, they'll help themselves to your food and anyone elses.
for those inclined to oppose feeding wildlife, let's concentrate on not feeding black flies.

Stan
02-27-2006, 08:40 AM
Hey! why not a little trail magic for the Jays, too. Unlike feeding bears, it's harmless. If put in context, it helps establish a connection with and affection for nature. Let's lighten up, there are far more meaningful principles to uphold.

DougPaul
02-27-2006, 09:02 AM
Very funny, guys, but Grouseking's basic question is an important one. People used to think it was cute and harmless to feed the bears. (I can even remember when it was considered "nice" to feed caged deer cigarette tobacco!!) Then we learned it was deadly for bears. To feed them is to kill them with kindness. They get addicted to the path of least resistance to food. It sounds like birds are different. They'll feast off a feeder but revert readily to natural food sources if the easy meal disappears. Audubon Society says there isn't much research and that probably there's no "dependency" issue in feeding wild birds because you are only supplementing what they eat. But the research isn't there yet to say that with certainty.
A big issue with bears is that humans fear habituated bears and tend to kill them... Bears exploit a wide range of food sources and if human sources disappear, can also go back to natural foods.


Does backyard feeding create a population of "dependent" birds?
While research in this area is limited, so far studies suggest that backyard feeders are not creating a population of dependent wintering birds.
Individual birds may not be totally dependent, but human feeding may allow a larger than normal population of birds. The effects could ripple through the eco-chain.


Will birds suffer if feeders go empty?
Human feeding of western ground squirrels alters the bacteria in their gut and impairs their ability to digest their natural foods. This significanly shortens their lives. Don't know if this is a problem with human-fed birds, but it is possible.

I'm not suggesting that Waumbek's statements are wrong--just that there could be some subtle effects that could be difficult to discover or rule out. Probably needs more research...

Doug

Kevin Rooney
02-27-2006, 09:08 AM
On a more serious note -

To feed or not to feed Grey Jays is myoptic, IMHO. The real question is whether to feed or not to feed wild birds anywhere. Millions of tons of bird seed is grown for feeding wild birds - it's a huge industry. So, don't single out the Grey Jay simply because it has little fear of humans, but rather look at the entire picture.

I don't agree with Stan - feeding bears and feeding jays is not the same. Bears can become habituated/dependent upon humans for a large portion of their food - grey jays don't.

Puck
02-27-2006, 09:17 AM
On a more serious note -

To feed or not to feed Grey Jays is myoptic, IMHO. The real question is whether to feed or not to feed wild birds anywhere. Millions of tons of bird seed is grown for feeding wild birds - it's a huge industry. So, don't single out the Grey Jay simply because it has little fear of humans, but rather look at the entire picture.



Good point.

I know many people share trail mix and sandwiches with them...why not bring a block of suet? These birds are scavengers and would pick the fat off a moose carcass. At the moment they are nesting, the chicks will hatch in two to three weeks. They are very reliant on thier caches as well as anything else they can get.

the starchild
02-27-2006, 09:27 AM
my first experience with grey jays was on west bond. the little guys seemed so friendly i told my friends i am so connected to wildlife one would land on my out streached hand...and one did! This seemed really cool until the next day when we stopped at galehead hut to cook lunch and saw everyone feeding the birds and having them eat out of their hands. i felt at that time that is wasn't right, especially by backpackers and hikers who mostly feel the need not to litter, not to poop in rivers, keep food away from bears and what not. why such a blatant disregard of our philosophies to feed the cute birds?

will someone (someone who believes feeding them is ok) please be so kind to simply explain why feeding a grey jay is ok, but feeding bears, raccoons, deer, and all the rest is bad? i am not understanding from the above posts what the difference is.

some of the arguments for not feeding other animals certainly apply to grey jays and some of the arguments to feed them can certainly apply to other animals.

are birds different? a special case? i know birdfeeders seem to be ok by everyone....unless yours is within reach of a bear!(i think we all saw those photos)

i am not seeing a difference here except that grey jays are by and far the least likely to harm a human. is it considered ok to feed them because we are not scared of them? is it ok because they won't come to camp later and steal our food. this seems selfish to me. something shouldn't be considered ok to do just because it won't effect us later, it should be right to do because it is not harmful.

is it considered ok to feed them just because, unlike bears, they will not return later causing property damage? because, unlike bears, if they decide not to wait for a hand-out and instead take the food, its not a scary, life or death encounter!??!

the fact that many people say it doesn't make a difference because they will try to steal it anyways is not a pro-feed argument to me, its a very, very strong anti-feed argument to me. they have learned............ just like bears.

-william

Kevin Rooney
02-27-2006, 09:36 AM
will someone (someone who believes feeding them is ok) please be so kind to simply explain why feeding a grey jay is ok, but feeding bears, raccoons, deer, and all the rest is bad? i am not understanding from the above posts what the difference is. -william

I'm one of those who believes it's OK for this reason - IMHO feeding Grey Jays will not change their behavior or be determental to them. If it made them dependent upon humans, or shortened their livespans, then I would not feed them.

Grey Jays are one of the few species you can encounter anywhere in the Northern Forests, whether it's New Hampshire or Oregon. And I can tell you from personal experience - their behavior is the same!

Puck
02-27-2006, 09:53 AM
To answer Starchilds question understanding the bird's natural history will clarify.The gray jay evolved as a scavenger. They will trail large preditors through thier habitat waiting for a kill, feces or anything. they also eat insects, eggs and fledlings from other birds. This trailing behavior was transferred to hikers, trappers and loggers. A pair will have a territory of 250 acres all in the spruce fir habitat...In the northeast that is either a bog or mountains above 3500' This is not a dense population. They are very territorial and will exploit a spot, peak, hut or campsite for food. They are constantly gathering food that gets cached. One could argue that the hiker exposure throughout the territory is small. Feeding these birds has no inpact on the population. the popluation is kept in check by dieoffs of nestlings caused by rain, sleet in late Feb and ealy March. Also the corvid population as a whole has been hit by west nile.

They are in the crow family and will exploit every chance to get a meal with or without a human.

Mattl
02-27-2006, 10:28 AM
I think that unlike a bird feeder, they dont get constant attention. Its more of a gift for them then a guarentee. I think its okay as long as the bird like a wild gray jay doesn't get it everyday. I think they are the coolest birds around. Makes me happy to see them friendly. part of the whites charm. -Mattl

Stan
02-27-2006, 11:05 AM
I don't agree with Stan - feeding bears and feeding jays is not the same. Bears can become habituated/dependent upon humans for a large portion of their food - grey jays don't.

Kevin either misread or misinterpreted my statement. I don't equate feeding jays with feeding bears. For different reasons I don't feed deer either; they might not become habituated to the food but rather the source, thus becoming easy prey during hunting season. But I do feed jays occasionally and I don't believe anyone has come up with a free range peanut butter fed jay recipe yet.

sleeping bear
02-27-2006, 11:06 AM
will someone (someone who believes feeding them is ok) please be so kind to simply explain why feeding a grey jay is ok, but feeding bears, raccoons, deer, and all the rest is bad? i am not understanding from the above posts what the difference is.

some of the arguments for not feeding other animals certainly apply to grey jays and some of the arguments to feed them can certainly apply to other animals.

are birds different? a special case? i know birdfeeders seem to be ok by everyone....unless yours is within reach of a bear!(i think we all saw those photos)


While feeding a grey jay certainly doesn't have the same implications as feeding a black bear, I see no real difference in the philosophy and am also confused as to why some would think one is okay but no the other. Wild animals are wild and should be kept that way. Grey jays are notorious camp robbers by nature, we don't need to encourage it.

Bird feeders are another story, and a very fine line. Birding is a huge industry and is responsible for getting a lot of people outside and interested in nature. To say that bird feeders are no longer kosher would have a huge impact on our society. Perhaps it is not such a big issue here in Mass, or New York City, Conn., or Rhode Island, but in more Northern areas where winter is more severe, I've often heard cautions about bird feeders. For instance, you should only put out a bird feeder if you can keep it up all winter. My parents in MI have a large feeder which attracts TONS of birds every winter, espcially chickadees, finches, and blue jays. Chickadees and other birds need to eat like 10 times their body wieght in food everyday in winter, so if that easy source of sunflower seeds suddenly was gone they may have some adjusting to do. That's not to say that they would die, but an abnormally large population is attracted to that feeder, perhaps lured away from their normal feeding areas. Thus the feeder has changed thier feeding habits.

BorealChickadee
02-27-2006, 11:10 AM
Cornell's Laboratory of Ornithology has found that even backyard birds obtain only 20% of their total food intake from feeders.

If you're feeling guilty about the nutritional content of what you're offering the jays then carry black oil sunflower seeds or suet. Those hand fed black capped chickadees will appreciate the b.o. sunflower seeds also. I've never carried suet but I have carried the sunflower seeds.

the starchild
02-27-2006, 12:44 PM
To answer Starchilds question understanding the bird's natural history will clarify.The gray jay evolved as a scavenger. They will trail large preditors through thier habitat waiting for a kill, feces or anything. they also eat insects, eggs and fledlings from other birds. This trailing behavior was transferred to hikers, trappers and loggers.

thank for the response, and not to argue just to argue, but to ask to find the difference; i must ask!?!?!? ( and i ask this of everyone, not just you since i used your quote :) )

aren't raccoons scavengers too? and yet we all know not to feed them. or are they technically not scavengers (i am ignorant here).

also, what difference does it even make whether or not grey jays are scavengers?

or, more specifically, if an animal is a scavenger by evolution, why then is ok to feed it? i mean, why does that even make a difference? even if it is a scavenger by evolution, how does that make it ok to feed it? its still not natural, and with so many hikers, it must make a difference in these animals' natural eating cycle.

i find it very, very hard to believe that grey jays would be snatching food out of non-feeding peoples' hands had they never been fed before by people.


-william

ps. one last point, someone, (sorry i forget who) said the birds get so little food from the people it doesn't make a difference. but any bird (or animal for that matter) will get easy food before working hard to get food, and with more food available from hikers, more birds will be born due to more food, and now you have too many birds to be supported naturally and then they will rely on the hikers...viola....we have changed them and thier diet and natural rhythm! not good!

Kevin Rooney
02-27-2006, 12:58 PM
Kevin either misread or misinterpreted my statement. I don't equate feeding jays with feeding bears. For different reasons I don't feed deer either; they might not become habituated to the food but rather the source, thus becoming easy prey during hunting season. But I do feed jays occasionally and I don't believe anyone has come up with a free range peanut butter fed jay recipe yet. Opps, sounds like I misunderstood you, Stan. I thought you were implying that bears and grey jays had similar habituation tendencies.

Puck
02-27-2006, 01:05 PM
thank for the response, and not to argue just to argue, but to ask to find the difference; i must ask!?!?!? ( and i ask this of everyone, not just you since i used your quote :) )

aren't raccoons scavengers too? and yet we all know not to feed them. or are they technically not scavengers (i am ignorant here).

also, what difference does it even make whether or not grey jays are scavengers? !

Saying that they are scavengers alone is not a justification for feeding them. It is hard or impossible to compare these birds with mamals. They cover a 250 acre territory. the density is small. They are constantly gathering food, most of what they take gets cached. Handouts from hikers is a small part of thier diet. and the availability of this food source does not appear to have an affect on thier population. Whereas an oppossum in an urban setting could live on garbage.The human impact is huge on these and other mamals.



i find it very, very hard to believe that grey jays would be snatching food out of non-feeding peoples' hands had they never been fed before by people.!
Absolutly. In areas with no loging or hikers these birds do not feed out of hands nor attack hikers not willing to share.





ps. one last point, someone, (sorry i forget who) said the birds get so little food from the people it doesn't make a difference. but any bird (or animal for that matter) will get easy food before working hard to get food, and with more food available from hikers, more birds will be born due to more food, and now you have too many birds to be supported naturally and then they will rely on the hikers...viola....we have changed them and thier diet and natural rhythm! not good!
That is not the case with the grey jay making them the exception and not the rule. the population is not increased. They work hard for thier food even if it is a handout.

Kevin Rooney
02-27-2006, 01:28 PM
One more thing - lest anyone think grey jays are these cute little birds who are all sweetness & light: actually, they're rather ruthless from birth. The strongest chick forces the weaker ones from the nest, so the biggest, baddest, most ruthless chick is left. If you watch closely, you can often see the family group - Mom, Dad and Youngster. Mom and Dad will feed from your hand regularly, but Youngster tends to hold back and observe the parent's technique. So, I don't have any illusions that my feeding these little beggars is in any way detrimental to them. They're intelligent, bold, resourceful and opportunistic. They sure as hell don't need my help to survive. They're also bullies, and some will buzz you if you stop feeding them before they've had enough.

Puck
02-27-2006, 01:52 PM
One more thing - lest anyone think grey jays are these cute little birds who are all sweetness & light: actually, they're rather ruthless from birth. The strongest chick forces the weaker ones from the nest, so the biggest, baddest, most ruthless chick is left. If you watch closely, you can often see the family group - Mom, Dad and Youngster. Mom and Dad will feed from your hand regularly, but Youngster tends to hold back and observe the parent's technique. So, I don't have any illusions that my feeding these little beggars is in any way detrimental to them. They're intelligent, bold, resourceful and opportunistic. They sure as hell don't need my help to survive. They're also bullies, and some will buzz you if you stop feeding them before they've had enough.

Kevin
You brought up a great point. so If you are hiking in the summer months and you see three grey jays...all is well in the world. If you only see two, the offspring has died.... if March has a lot of rain early in the month the nesting success is zero.

DougPaul
02-27-2006, 02:46 PM
aren't raccoons scavengers too? and yet we all know not to feed them. or are they technically not scavengers (i am ignorant here).
Bears happily scavenge too. And raid bird feeders....

Arguing that it is ok or not ok to feed an animal because it is a scavenger seems a little weak to me. Effects on the individual animal, its population and the other members of the ecosystem seem like better criteria.

But I suspect that ultimately many (most?) decide based upon the effect on the human offering the food--bears become nuisances, bad; birds and chipmunks (cute), good.

Doug

dr_wu002
02-27-2006, 02:53 PM
To answer Starchilds question understanding the bird's natural history will clarify.The gray jay evolved as a scavenger. They will trail large preditors through thier habitat waiting for a kill, feces or anything. they also eat insects, eggs and fledlings from other birds. This trailing behavior was transferred to hikers, trappers and loggers.
Well, I'll never have to pack out my poo after reading this! Thanks!

-Dr. Wu

grouseking
02-27-2006, 03:24 PM
To be honest, I was trying to light a little fuse here....to see what people really think, and what they know. I love what I've been reading in this and I've been learning a lot, as usual.

When I first heard of these birds, I thought it was a fantastic idea to go hiking, seek them out and try to feed them. Then when I found them the first time at Ethan Pond, I practically had to hide my cheese-its. Last time I saw them was on a hike last September on Mt Tom. There must have been 10-15 overly aggressive birds up there dive bombing my head for food. It was ridiculous. So finally, i said FINE, HAVE SOME FOOD! I stuck out my hand and let one land. But of course they all kept their distance and not one landed to take the crumbs. That upset me a little and then I continued eating. Not 30 seconds later, another Jay dive bombed me and attempted to take some more food. I guess I was just annoyed, but at the same time I didn't think they were supposed to be that aggressive.

And that made me wonder if all the food we are giving these jays is negatively affecting them, because these guys knew what they wanted, and they came in numbers!!

Keep the comments/thoughts coming. I learn so much from this site.


grouseking

sierra
02-27-2006, 04:26 PM
I feed the Jays, both in the Whites and in the Rockies of Colorado as well. It does not harm them in any way and I enjoy it even after all these years. I gave it some thought and here my take on my own and maybe others motivation on this issue. We are civilized and to have a wild animal in your hand is quite frankly both unussual and amusing, I will continue to feed them, if you decide not to, godspeed to you, but could you move on so me and my birds can get back to our lunch now.

DougPaul
02-27-2006, 05:08 PM
And that made me wonder if all the food we are giving these jays is negatively affecting them, because these guys knew what they wanted, and they came in numbers!!
I think it is obvious what the behavioral effects are--turns normal birds into aggressive pests.

BTW, if you search, you will see that this topic has been beaten to death before. And probably will be again multiple times in the future...

Doug

Waumbek
02-27-2006, 05:21 PM
I just submitted an article to Natural New England magazine that covers this very question.

Puck, thanks for all your input, which has raised the level of discussion way above I-wanna-feed-em vs. you-shudn-feed-em. Good luck with the article submission. I'm sure it will see print. Please post or PM when it does. I'd like to read it and learn more.

grouseking
02-27-2006, 10:25 PM
BTW, if you search, you will see that this topic has been beaten to death before. And probably will be again multiple times in the future...

Doug


Maybe we have beaten a dead horse, but it has been a good thread, and I was just plain curious.

Now, to turn the stage a little, I found an interesting article online. It has a lot of neat info on Gray Jays and a possible explanation as to why they are dying off in some areas...global warming. Here is an excerpt.

"The Algonquin Gray Jay study's working hypothesis is that climate warming may be responsible for the decline. We know that Gray Jays depend on stored food for their winter survival and that they also use this food, at least to some extent, to feed nestlings. As global temperatures rise, we can expect that insects, berries, pieces of meat or mushrooms stored by Gray Jays will spoil more rapidly. This will occur even in the winter and may be especially serious when repeated freeze-thaw events accelerate the degradation of perishable food. The cumulative effect of such warming may be that early-nesting Gray Jays have less stored food to feed their nestlings than in the past and fewer young jays are produced as a result. "

Now that is an interesting hypothesis...not that I'm surprised, since everything is being blamed on global warming (if it exsists :rolleyes: ). But still its interesting enough to look at. Here is the link... Gray Jays (http://www.sbaa.ca/projects.asp?cn=495) .

grouseking

Raymond
02-28-2006, 03:37 AM
How about the ethics of feeding feral cats in suburbia?

I've only encountered one gray jay that I can recall at the top of Carrigain. And it didn't even come all that close.

Puck
02-28-2006, 08:47 AM
"The Algonquin Gray Jay study's working hypothesis is that climate warming may be responsible for the decline. We know that Gray Jays depend on stored food for their winter survival and that they also use this food, at least to some extent, to feed nestlings. As global temperatures rise, we can expect that insects, berries, pieces of meat or mushrooms stored by Gray Jays will spoil more rapidly. This will occur even in the winter and may be especially serious when repeated freeze-thaw events accelerate the degradation of perishable food. The cumulative effect of such warming may be that early-nesting Gray Jays have less stored food to feed their nestlings than in the past and fewer young jays are produced as a result. "

grouseking

The jays take the food into thier crop where it is coated with a sticky mucus that will harden like varnish. so the food is actually "canned" for future use. Climate change was explained to me by an ornithologist as affecting the birds to inuslate themselves against the elements. It is easier for the birds to stay woarm in the snow then the freezing rain.

grouseking
02-28-2006, 09:22 AM
The jays take the food into thier crop where it is coated with a sticky mucus that will harden like varnish. so the food is actually "canned" for future use. Climate change was explained to me by an ornithologist as affecting the birds to inuslate themselves against the elements. It is easier for the birds to stay woarm in the snow then the freezing rain.


COOL! :)

grouseking

Whiteman
02-28-2006, 12:53 PM
I've fed the jays, and never really felt too bad about it. We did get some looks one time from some fellow who thought we were morons because we were dressed lightly (t-shirts in fact, as we came out onto the ridge on Pierce) despite the weather (kind of crispy, rime ice everywhere, a bit of a breeze), and then we fed the birds! (BTW, there were multiple layers of non-cotton clothing in the packs, and we never got cold.)

And I've fed lots of other birds at the bird feeder, and chickadees from the hand. When my kids were very little we took them to an Audubon center where the chickadees were extremely friendly, and both kids had birds land on their hands. They were fascinated and thrilled by the experience. I think it gave them a nice connection with nature, one that has lasted.

Now if I could just make friends with a raven. That is what I would really like to do, but I suspect there is some federal law saying that's a no-no.

bill bowden
02-28-2006, 01:23 PM
Once shared a ham and cheese sandwich with a raven (Mount Rainier);felt no particular guilt. I had thought the decline in gray jays was more likely related to spread of broadleaf forests and decline in boreal forests, their normal habitat.

Moving outside WMNF to the "North of the Notches" section in New Hampshire reveals large areas of cut over second growth forest where broadleaf trees have re-grown in place of the previous spruce-fir community.

Anecdotally, spruce grouse, also once very common in the Whites appear to be becoming less and less common. They were/are also very "tame" birds and show no fear in approaching people. Their reputed defence mechanism was to taste like turpentine fromtheir diet of spruce buds.

Bob
02-28-2006, 01:35 PM
They taste just like chicken...

expat
02-28-2006, 04:16 PM
So if we are to treat all animals the same, where does it stop? What about the dung beetles and bacteria that feed on the matter in the composting toilets at backcountry tentsites?

Humans are part of nature, but we hope that our sentience makes us benign there. To me, feeding Grey Jays is benign. Feeding racoons, bears and other animals may not be. Given that, we each need to make the decisions we're comfortable with based on the facts we have.

Kevin Rooney
02-28-2006, 04:54 PM
... we hope that our sentience makes us benign there. Another thread, discussing the pros and cons of whether the poster thought animals in general, and grey jays in particular, were sentient might be an interesting thread. IIRC the 'scientific community' has long held that humans were the only sentient beings, but careful observation of other species challenges that opinion. But, that's getting a bit far afield on a hiking BB.

the starchild
02-28-2006, 06:17 PM
ok fine!!!

if a grey jay ever steals my lunch, i'm holding all you grey jay feeders responsible!!!! :)

and i want to be repaid for my lost food in beer:)

funkyfreddy
02-28-2006, 09:20 PM
Another thread, discussing the pros and cons of whether the poster thought animals in general, and grey jays in particular, were sentient might be an interesting thread. IIRC the 'scientific community' has long held that humans were the only sentient beings, but careful observation of other species challenges that opinion. But, that's getting a bit far afield on a hiking BB.

Another question might be whether we humans are sentient...... if so then how much of the time? I think the idea of humans being sentient is debatable given the evidence of human history...... perhaps we are becoming more sentient as time passes, I can only hope so....... this is of course another debate beyond the pale of a hiking forum, although I would question how much more sentient than a grey jay your habitual couch potatoe/daytime television watcher is...:rolleyes: :D The grey jay is probably way more aware and in tune to their environment, they would have to be in order to survive....

As far as whether grey jays or other bird species are sentient I would say that in my opinion they are, though perhaps not in an individual sense.... I think many species of birds, insects, or fish posess a sort of "hive mind" or maybe a more unified field of consciousness shared among them..... I forget where I read about this theory, although it made a lot of sense to me from my observations of nature.

HH1
03-13-2006, 12:59 PM
Good related article written recently by Ed Parsons in the Conway Daily Sun:

http://www.conwaydailysun.com/hiking.lasso

Cheers

Periwinkle
03-14-2006, 01:22 AM
I guess I'm late on flogging this "dead horse" more than once, but wanted to add my .02:

Kevin mentioned "buzzing" raids. GrouseKing refered to "dive bombing". That's my issue -- those sweet little birds y'all fed on the Tom-Willey route later mounted an assault on my solo backpack, nearly scaring the beejesus outta me! At the time, I swore that was their plan: Give the hiker a heart attack; score the GORP! The raid started just east of Field, to Willey, back to Field and out to Tom. I think my heart stopped at least a dozen times along that ridge!

Not to say I didn't capture the Kodak moment of the two biggest bullies on Willey (great phot-op). But I didn't feed them. Ut-uh. Not encouraging THAT behavior! And just think -- the the bird that landed on your nut filled hand may have just feasted on feces. :D Giardia, anyone?

I would have rather thrown half my PBJ to the cute fox that sat for a great picture on Carter Dome. Now there was a Kodak moment. Didn't feed him either, tho.

Explorer Editor
03-14-2006, 04:41 PM
And even if the Jays around crowded spots like Marcy Dam did get a little paunchy and rear slightly larger broods?

Are there gray jays around Marcy Dam? I thought you would find them only at high elevations or in lowland boreal habitat. Lots of chickadees at the dam, of course.

jrichard
03-15-2006, 07:13 AM
A few of these posts mentioned that feeding deer causes them to be habituated handouts from people. That's not really the problem, as I understand it.

The issue is that deer have a complex digestive system in which the bacteria adapts to their diet. In winter, they are eating shoots and buds. When they eat from feeders, not only can they not digest the feed, but it causes their system to start to adapt to the feed. So they starve, not being able to digest the feed or the shoots.

There's a good sound bite about this on NHPR. http://www.nhpr.org/node/10276

Personally, I suspect that feeding the Jays isn't an issue. But I'm not a biologist.

sleeping bear
03-15-2006, 07:40 AM
A few of these posts mentioned that feeding deer causes them to be habituated handouts from people. That's not really the problem, as I understand it.

The issue is that deer have a complex digestive system in which the bacteria adapts to their diet. In winter, they are eating shoots and buds. When they eat from feeders, not only can they not digest the feed, but it causes their system to start to adapt to the feed. So they starve, not being able to digest the feed or the shoots.




Where I lived in michigan there is a small peninsula into lake Superior, about 1.5 miles around, wooded with nice trails, a one lane road loop around it, a community pool an nature center, as well as several picnic areas. This is close to town and therefore a popular destination. Over the course of many years it became normal to see people out there everyday feeding the deer, including the resident albino. There was an older woman who fed them every morning, as well as others, including college students who'd feed them things like french fries and hamburgers.

This all culminated when the city estimated there were 80 deer inhabiting this small area, and they would not leave. The carrying capacity was something like 15 deer. They had eaten most of the natural food sources and many were becoming sick and wasting away.

It came to the point that the city closed the park for a week and hired hunters to go in and kill most of the deer in an effort to cull to population. You can only imagine how pissed people were to hear that they were going to kill all those "poor deer". Since then the city has been much more strict about feeding the deer down there, although I believe people still do.

Not quite Grey jays, but...

Tom Rankin
03-15-2006, 07:49 AM
That reminds me, I saw an article on a woman who feeds Bald Eagles every winter. Surely (some would argue), this is ok, as we have contributed to almost wiping them out. Of course, I'm sure others would argue the other way...

jrichard
03-15-2006, 05:29 PM
...feed them things like french fries and hamburgers.

This all culminated when the city estimated there were 80 deer inhabiting this small area, and they would not leave.

Fries and hamburgers? The Gray Jays would go nuts for that stuff.

I imagine that a deer's digestive system would get accustomed to that higher calorie food, if fed continuously.

But are you sure that the issue wasn't just that the deer population grew due to the lack of natural predators (or hunting?) IIRC, that was the verdict on Long Island, NH, which had a similar hunt.

In any case, I think we all agree that feeding deer is a bad idea. It is a pain in the neck keeping them out of my bird feeder though.

forestgnome
03-15-2006, 06:43 PM
Feeding bears, directly or through neglect, does not kill the bear, it actually helps them fatten up for winter. Feeding them can lead to their demise because other humans freak out at the sight of the bear (who came back for more) then shoot the bear or call some other humans who shoot the bear so it won't ever again scare the human. The bear was just looking for food in the same place it found food earlier. It's bad to feed bears because it may lead to their death by scared humans who don't belong in bear country.

Gray jays don't scare humans so feeding them doesn't lead to their death, only enhanced nourishment. IMHO, the idea of an animal loosing the ability to find food for any reason indicates a lack of understanding of the nature of animals. If someone fed you an afternoon treat every Saturday and Sunday, would you forget how to feed yourself the rest of the time?

sleeping bear
03-16-2006, 09:16 PM
Feeding bears, directly or through neglect, does not kill the bear, it actually helps them fatten up for winter. Feeding them can lead to their demise because other humans freak out at the sight of the bear (who came back for more) then shoot the bear or call some other humans who shoot the bear so it won't ever again scare the human. The bear was just looking for food in the same place it found food earlier. It's bad to feed bears because it may lead to their death by scared humans who don't belong in bear country.

Gray jays don't scare humans so feeding them doesn't lead to their death, only enhanced nourishment. IMHO, the idea of an animal loosing the ability to find food for any reason indicates a lack of understanding of the nature of animals. If someone fed you an afternoon treat every Saturday and Sunday, would you forget how to feed yourself the rest of the time?

Freaking out at the sight of a bear is one thing, having your tent ripped into in the middle of the night, bears tearing apart backpacks left unattended for more than a few minutes, and being charged are quite different stories. The latter are what happen when bears become really bold and aggressive in their search for continued handouts. While actual attacks (black bear) are almost non-existant, they will charge (usually a bluff) which is enough to scare the crap out of anyone. When this happens campgrounds can be closed or restricted and the local wildlife management is forced to spend taxpayer money to remedy the problem. Often when the problem goes that far the bear will need to be destroyed. Just look at the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks, they've got serious bear issues (squirrel, chipmunk and bird too!)

While the situation would obviously never be that bad with birds, someone in an earlier post did mention some bold unwanted attention. I have heard that the chemical make-up of many of the starches that we eat can be very harmful to birds. Think of all of the other junk that is in our food, it can't be good.

forestgnome
03-17-2006, 04:20 AM
While actual attacks (black bear) are almost non-existant, they will charge (usually a bluff) which is enough to scare the crap out of anyone. When this happens campgrounds can be closed or restricted and the local wildlife management is forced to spend taxpayer money to remedy the problem. Often when the problem goes that far the bear will need to be destroyed.

I disagree that the bear needs to be killed. People go into bear country, the only places left for them to live, then get scared when their stuff gets trashed or they are bluff charged by a bear. The bear does not to be killed, rather the scared humans need to be coddled and to have their treking environment sterilized of a perceived danger. I have been bluff charged twice, complete with huffs and pops. Once by a large bruin with a bag of trash and once by a sow with three cubs. I simply obeyed the request and moved away. I saw no need to call authorities to have them killed or removed from their own environment.

IMO, the are two problems. The first is feeding the bear. The second is going into bear country if you're afraid of bears.

grouseking
03-17-2006, 06:41 AM
So here's a question. It looks like this isn't all about gray jays anymore, so I'll ask about the bear. Do you think there are actual circumstances where the bear either needs to be killed, or tranquilized and sent elsewhere? What about the infamous Brutus years back in the Pemi? If you have many bears like that, wouldn't you think you'd need to control that problem? I really don't know what's best for bears, but I would think that if one does get used to handouts, that can't be good. Let's say if the bear is a female. Is there some way it could teach to trust humans to its cubs? Too many questions, getting way off topic. I just think these are several things to think about.


In the end though, I think that we should be extra careful in bear country. Its called bear country for a reason, they lived there...and have lived there most likely before us. So coexsisting is important. And I do agree it doesn't mean killing bears, it means making sure you don't get to the point where bears are more used to human handouts. I've come across bears intimately once, in Campton almost 10 years ago at a campground. I looked into the woods and there they were....mom and two-three cubs....not 50 feet away. Most likely they were looking for food. Then they were spotted across camp as a festival was going on, so food was very present. It's tough to coexsist with that, but somehow we have to.

A very confused
grouseking

sleeping bear
03-17-2006, 07:35 AM
IMO, the are two problems. The first is feeding the bear. The second is going into bear country if you're afraid of bears.


I can agree with that.

I don't mean to come accross as being an advocate of having the bears destroyed, as I am certainly not. There are two specific instances I'm reffering to in which only one, as far as I know, went so far as to have a bear destroyed. However, both instances involved relocation. One of those situations was on an island which is a USFS national recreation area. Of course the bears have no idea what that means, but people should know it means we need to coexist, as FN mentioned. Even if you are afraid of bears, that shouldn't matter too much because ideally they're just as scared of us, hence "wild".

While I have strayed away from the topic at hand, feeding grey jays, it's larger than that, it's about feeding any wild animal. Our problems with bears can be solved by not feeding them, intentionally or unintentionally. I think this starts right at the beginning of it all, by not feeding smaller, less dangerous animals (birds, chipmunks, foxes, etc.). Otherwise where do you draw the line? If it's okay to feed a bird and get a nice photo of it sitting on your hand, isn't it a double standard to say that it isn't okay to do the same with a bear?

Neil
03-17-2006, 07:41 AM
Bears that attack humans are bad for business.

In consideration of this discussion whether it's right or wrong, when it's between bears' and peoples' safety, well-being, rights, whatever, people (and money) will always come first.

In Lake Luoise Alberta there is a large public campground (car-camping) and one night a grizzly beat attacked a guy while he was sleeping peacefully in his tent. The person lived but needed 150 stitches on his face alone. The newspapers loved it. What do you think happened to the local economy when people changed their vacation plans? What do think happened to the bear who was a "known offender".

The public couldn't give a hoot about the bears.

That campground now has a big fence all around it.

forestgnome
03-17-2006, 06:58 PM
Grouseking, thanks for letting your thread wander to animals in general because it really is a hiking/camping issue when humans venture into the forest.

I agree with sleepingbear that no animals really benefit from being fed by humans, but there is a difference between jays and bears. Feeding jays a couple treats is harmless. Admittedly I feed them for my own pleasure and not their well being, but I firmly believe no harm is done and they really love it! We all know that the bears are a different story. If bears weighed 25 lbs. instead of 250 lbs., no harm would come to them.

Five years ago, in North Conway, I heard a gunshot. I went to see what happened. A mama bear was lying dead on the ground, and her two cubs were just above her body on a branch, looking down and very upset. A small crowd formed a circle around the scene. Someone put fish on the dumpster, which had "don't feed the bears" signs all over it. She wanted to take a picture of the bear with her kids. Other residents of the area called the police because they were scared. Instead of telling the crowd to leave the area and calling F@G, the cop mased the bear. The mased bear was scared and confused and approached the cop, who then shot her dead. The cubs stayed there for hours, and watched as the police put their mama's body in the animal control van and drove away. After dark the cubs came down, sniffed around and then ran into the woods alone.

There are no problem bears, just idiot humans who don't belong in bear country. Anyone who is afraid of a bear looking for food should stay home in the city.

ROCKYSUMMIT
03-17-2006, 08:06 PM
Hey Forestnome that's a real horror story. It amazes me how many people just don't get it.

jrichard
03-18-2006, 07:25 AM
Otherwise where do you draw the line? If it's okay to feed a bird and get a nice photo of it sitting on your hand, isn't it a double standard to say that it isn't okay to do the same with a bear?

This can get quite deep into personal philosophy, and many will have a different answer.

Some will say that we should have an easily understood, unambiguous rule such as "don't feed the wildlife". Others will claim that it is a matter of perspective, or is relative. For instance, one might say that it should be obvious that feeding a bear is dangerous while a bird is not. Of course, it may not be obvious to those without experience in the area.

In any case, a hunter would have a quite different perspective on this. Bear baiting is legal in NH (http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Hunting/bear_baiting.htm) except in some areas such as Nash Stream Forest. I'm not all that thrilled about this since I assume the scent of the donut maker or hunter will stay around. If the bear isn't taken, it might associate humans with food. (Note that I'm not trying to take an anti-hunting position here, some good friends of mine are hunters.)

jade
03-18-2006, 09:50 AM
Uh, oh......don't get me stahted!! I've been so good lately... ;)

...Jade

forestgnome
03-19-2006, 03:28 AM
Sorry if I bummed out anyone with the sad bear story. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here on VFTT by complaining about purposely feeding bears in a place where the bear would have public contact.

Two days after the shooting, F@G came through the neighborhood, where I was living at the time, looking for the cubs, who were then the talk of the neighborhood. We discussed a plan to trap them, and I suggested where the den probably was up on Mt. Cranmore. Two weeks later they were trapped and brought to Pittsburg, NH, where a person rears orphans very successfully. It worked and they went off on their own. :)

expat
03-21-2006, 08:08 AM
I received an email from the National Wildlife Federation (Wildlife Online), with a link to an article saying that March is the hardest time for birds to get sufficient nourishment, so people should stoke up the backyard feeders. http://enature.com/articles/detail.asp?storyID=447

dms
03-21-2006, 08:48 AM
It's been standing room only at my feeder this month!!! Nice article!

Puck
03-21-2006, 11:49 AM
I received an email from the National Wildlife Federation (Wildlife Online), with a link to an article saying that March is the hardest time for birds to get sufficient nourishment, so people should stoke up the backyard feeders. http://enature.com/articles/detail.asp?storyID=447

Good link.

I attended an Aububon conference this past Sat. Stephen Kress was one of the speakers. He discussed landscape gardening for birds. there are spcies of shrubs and trees that bear fruit that will not be eaten by birds untill late spring. Bird feeders are good...a bird supporting landscape is even better.

BTW he addressed the claim that feeding birds is harmfull. He doesn't buy it (in support of the article you posted) He stated "Our feeding has not created a welfare state for the birds." So there you have it from the horse's mouth.

bill bowden
03-21-2006, 11:54 AM
I'm open to suggestions as to what would be good choices.