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Do You Feed Camp Robbers?

Posted by Andrew Engelson at Mar 31, 2008 03:40 PM |
Do You Feed Camp Robbers?

Gray jays, commonly known as camp robbers, frequently seek handouts at popular hiking destinations.

I recently received an e-mail from a WTA member about an issue that's been bugging him for a long time: feeding "camp robbers" while on a hike.

Most of us are familiar with camp robbers, those birds that congregate on summits and backcountry camps where humans and their peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches are sure to be found. There are actually two bird species commonly known as camp robbers: the gray jay and the Clark's nutcracker.

They're cute birds and not at all shy about seeking a handout.

The WTA member--who recently witnessed a camp robber landing on a snowshoer's hand to get a snack--wondered if we should be feeding these birds.

This member (who wishes to remain anonymous, lest he or she become known as the Gray Jay Grinch) thinks we shouldn't be feeding any sort of wildlife, whether it's camp robbers, squirrels or bears.

I brought the question to the attention of Matt Mega, the conservation director at Seattle Audubon. Matt said that Audubon doesn't advocate feeding of wild birds in public or park environments, mostly to prevent "nuisance birds."

That's been the approach for bears for many years: Urging campers not to feed bears has helped reduce nuisance animals overly dependent on human food. But are camp robbers really a nuisance?

I would argue if you're going to apply the "don't feed the animals" rule to one creature you should apply it to all. The idea is to reduce human impacts and keep wildlands a little bit wilder. It's an extension of Leave No Trace ethics.

What do you think? Think we should make an exception for those friendly camp companions? Or should we keep our chips to ourselves? Post a comment...

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