Whistler loves the Whiskey Jack!
Recent drama surrounding the appointment of a national bird has painted the Gray Jay (aka, the Whiskey Jack) as an unpopular Canadian icon.
Here in Whistler, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Despite its Americanized name and nationwide indifference, Whistler loves the Whiskey Jack. They are enthusiastic fixtures in the Harmony line-up, welcomed hiking companions on Joffre Lakes trails, and the namesake of a Whistler Brewery staple, Whiskey Jack Ale.
Whiskey Jacks don’t migrate south for the winter. They are spotted year-round scavenging for food. Chances are you’ve lured a Whiskey Jack to sit on your ski pole, or outstretched hand, with the promise of food.
Or you disagree with those that have.
To feed? Or not to feed?
Whistler is bear-y conscious of bear-proofing our trash and recycling programs. These practices, and others promoted by organizations such as Bear Smart, help reduce human-bear conflicts and keep wildlife wild and healthy.
Why do we not offer the same protection to the Whiskey Jack?
Too often do we see visitors (and locals) feeding these wild animals. Almost always there is a concerned member of the community asking, “please, don’t feed the birds”. Unfortunately, these interactions are sometimes less than gracious.
So, lets settle the debate. To feed? Or not to feed?
Keep the Whiskey Jack Wild
Whiskey Jacks are playful songbirds that are friendly towards humans. Just because one willingly lands in your hand does not mean you should reward it with food. Large, small, friendly, or ferocious… Feeding wild animals is a huge no-no.
Feeding Whiskey Jacks, or any wild animal is considered interference. Interference with wild animals threatens the health and equilibrium of the entire ecosystem. What seems like an innocent treat for a cute bird can affect the health of the Whiskey Jack and yourself.
Feeding birds is a potential public health concern. Over 60 known diseases can be transmitted from birds to humans through physical contact or contact with droppings. We can also transmit human bacteria and disease to the Whiskey Jack which they may not be able to fight off.
The nuts, granola bars, and bread that humans typically offer the Whiskey Jack is not a healthy diet. Alterations to their natural diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies and obesity. The sugar content in most breads is harmful to human health. The potential harm to a small bird is far greater.
The Whiskey Jack is a Whistler icon. They are playful, curious, and just oh-so cute! We would love to keep this nationally recognized bird healthy and happy. To do this we must not feed the Whiskey Jack. It is almost guaranteed they will land on an upturned ski pole for your Instagram photo even without the promise of food!