Duckling
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5 simple things people do that hurt wildlife

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Whether they’re furry, winged, or even slightly slimy, animals and other wildlife are part of the cottage experience—it just wouldn’t be the same without them. But some of the things we do are harming these creatures. Here are just a few things we should be mindful of to minimize our impact.

Feeding bread to ducks

While we’ve all fed bread to ducks at some point in our lives, these days it is a total faux pas. While bread is loaded with carbohydrates, there isn’t much else for them, so if they eat a lot of bread, it can lead to malnutrition, and a whole host of other problems, including the creation of bacteria that can lead to deformities. If you’re intent on feeding the ducks, opt for cracked corn, oats, birdseed, halved grapes, or duck pellets instead.

Bringing pets to the cottage

Letting your dogs dig holes in beaches and shoreline areas is a “no-no” according to herpetologist Leslie Anthony, as they may dig up turtle nests.

And don’t even get him started on cats: “Don’t bring your frickin’ cats to the cottage!” he insists. “If you must, don’t let them outside—ever. The World Conservation Union has ranked the domestic cat on its infamous list ‘100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species.’ Cats are also a vector for rabies and other diseases that they can then spread to cottage wildlife, such as raccoons.”

Contributing harmful toxins

Microhabitats can be severely impacted by environmental contamination. And impacting any part of the ecosystem will invariably affect the entire thing. 

“Things like pesticides, soaps, etc,” Anthony says. “Don’t use them outside your cottage—period.”

See 6 ways to protect your lake from blue-green algae for more ways to protect your lake and aquatic creatures from harmful toxins. 

Driving carelessly

“Watch where you’re driving,” Anthony warns. “Creatures are crossing roads all the time, going to and from, foraging and breeding, and overwintering. June is an especially bad time for turtles as they are looking for sunny, sandy places to lay eggs. Sadly, the shoulders of many roads fit the bill. Snakes are common on roads as well, especially at dusk,” he says.

Landscaping

Altering the landscaping on your property can alter the habitat of the animals that live there.

“The biggest disaster for both amphibians and reptiles is stream/river and/or shoreline alteration, especially clearing of vegetation like cattails, lilypads and other aquatic plants, followed by the clearing of rocks/rockpiles and natural brushpiles,” Anthony says. “The lesson: Leave some of this stuff around if you want to preserve wildlife habitat. The water/land interface is the major area of energy transfer between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems; disrupt it significantly and you disrupt everything that’s going on there.”