callum the stag
"Callum the Stag" was a popular sight at the Binn Eighe National Nature Reserve. Credit: Robbie Roams/Instagram

Here’s Why You Don’t Feed Wildlife: ‘Callum the Stag’ Euthanized After Growing Reliant on Junk Food

Wildlife fans say internet star Callum the Stag had to be euthanized this week after he developed health problems from eating too much junk food. Now, they're blaming visitors to Scottish national parks for feeding wildlife.

According to reports, Callum was a "well-known character" of both tourists and locals. Many would visit the Binn Eighe National Nature Reserve to see the famed deer. However, videos posted to social media show people feeding Callum unhealthy snacks like Rice Krispies and croissants.

What's more, Callum lost all fear of humans and would walk up to people and even pose for pictures. Over time, though, Callum lost all of his teeth and during the winter, he lost his ability to forage. So he had to rely on visitors for food. Many argued that the junk food not only rotted his teeth but also caused other health issues, such as a poor coat and arthritis.

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In turn, wildlife managers thought the best option for the deer was to euthanize it. "As a conservation charity, we take our responsibilities for animal welfare seriously and the advice was that this was the kindest option," said a spokesman with the National Trust for Scotland.

Don't feed the wildlife like Callum the Stag

From a visitor's perspective, there are several benefits to feeding wildlife. For starters, you're more likely to see wildlife if you offer them food. Plus, it might even feel good to feed a hungry animal. But experts say there are consequences.

According to the U.S. National Park Service, feeding wildlife can have a domino effect that ruins their natural ecosystem. In the case of Callum, the issue is called "food conditioning." That's when an animal relies on humans for food.

There are multiple consequences to food conditioning. Conditioned animals will start begging, stealing, or even attacking people for food. They may also develop health issues. Either way, the issue could get so bad that the animal will have to be put down.

Experts say human foods are not healthy for animals because they don't contain the nutrients they need to survive. Plus, if they get full of the wrong kinds of food, they'll stop hunting, foraging, or scavenging as they would in the natural world.

To prevent animals from getting a taste for chips or whatever, experts say you should follow a few rules. These include never feeding wildlife, storing food and trash appropriately, and keeping a safe distance from wildlife.