Providing Food, Water and Shelter

Providing Food, Water and Shelter

Be aware

  • Water is the top priority especially in early days of a response. Many animals are evolved to adapt to days or weeks without food but dehydration can kill very quickly. Eating when dehydrated can lead to serious gastro-intestinal issues and can be fatal.  Aim to allow animals to rehydrate, before feeding and if feeding always provide fresh water as well. 
  • Swimming pools can present a danger to thirsty wildlife even if other water sources are available. Keep your pool covered or secure a floatation device to the side of a pool such as a rope threaded through a pool noodle to allow wildlife to escape if they fall in while drinking. Check pools and skimmer boxes twice daily for wildlife that may have fallen in.
  • Native animals have very special and diverse dietary needs. It’s always best for the health of wildlife to forage for food and water naturally so feeding is generally not recommended. Feeding of free-living wildlife has many risks (listed below) that can lead to serious, unintended harms. The preferred food for one may result in serious illness or even be deadly to another.   If there is still vegetation or you are unsure, it is better not to offer food, and concentrate on providing fresh water. 
  • There may be regulated feeding programs already in place. Seek the authority of the landowner (this includes for public land). Obtain guidance and approval from appropriate state wildlife authorities (see links in Additional Resources, prior to providing any food in national parks and reserves and/or to isolated populations of threatened or endangered species). Partner with local wildlife volunteers, environmental groups like Landcare and government agencies like National Parks and Wildlife and Local Land Services to ensure the best long-term outcomes for the animals and the environment.
  • Recommendations in each state or territory may differ, so if you are in an area outside of NSW, follow guidelines for your area (see WHA website and links below).
  • Contact with wildlife may affect your health and safety as well. Several diseases carried by animals can be transmitted by animals. Bats (including flying foxes), adult kangaroos and venomous reptiles pose a serious risk to human handlers and should only be rescued by experienced personnel. See link in Additional Resources for more info.
  • Only licensed wildlife rescue and rehabilitation providers or qualified vets may take injured or orphaned native animals into care. You can use the IFAW Wildlife Rescue App to quickly find the one closest to you. 


  • Consumption of inappropriate foods risks serious illness and death.
  • Longer term malnutrition affecting health and reproduction. Simple overfeeding is a risk. Urban wildlife are already more affected by obesity, dental disease and gastrointestinal disorders compared to those in bushland areas.
  • Long-term dependence on human-provided food and water sources.  
  • Increased spread of infectious diseases and parasite species.
  • Increased chance of predation.
  • Increased aggression within and between species in close proximity.  
  • Increased numbers of “bossy” species, reduction of “timid” species over time and disadvantaging more threatened species.
  • Increase in feral species. Food provided for one species may also be found by unintended species, including pests.
  • Increased animal numbers around feeding stations may put extra pressure on natural feeding sources and delay natural regeneration.
  • Increase and spread of weeds to new locations.  Some of these (ie. serrated tussocks) are commonly found in unsterilized hays and are 
  • potential ecosystem destroyers.
  • Drowning or misadventure in unsuitable water containers
  • Human health and safety.  Increased risk of disease even when not in direct contact through exposure to faeces and urine as well as increased aggression towards people even when not feeding.


Additional Resources

Click to view additional resources