Dear RV Shrink:
My husband and I have been feeding birds for 40 years in our backyard. When we sold our home and began living full-time in our travel trailer, we decided one of our favorite pastimes could easily continue with a tube feeder and a hummingbird feeder hanging from our window awnings wherever we parked. We get so much enjoyment from the birds that visit our various camping sites. Recently, while visiting Yellowstone National Park, a ranger stopped at our rig and chewed me up one side and down the other for feeding the birds. We were threatened with a ticket and a stiff fine if we did not remove the feeders from our trailer and discontinue feeding the animals in the park. I have complained all the way up the chain of command to the Secretary of the Interior. My husband thinks I should just drop it and move on with my life. Am I overreacting? I’m not stopping traffic feeding bears, I’m simply doing what 50 million other bird-feeding enthusiasts do every day in their backyard. Please help me heal. —Busted in Geyser Basin
Been there, done that. I can feel your pain. I carry the same scars with me after more than 30 years. A ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park abused me like this in the ’70s, but I was a bit more guilty than you. I had a Droll Yankee tube feeder hanging from the front awning of my Airstream. I also had a clawless, and clueless cat, on the end of a leash, tied to the door knob. Just as the ranger was driving by, Buster came from under the trailer and launched for a grosbeak on the feeder. Thank goodness for me and the grosbeak, Buster came to the end of his rope before reaching his full potential. The ranger was out of his vehicle and all over me like a squirrel on a corn cob before I even knew what was going on. I took the feeder down and every time I saw the ranger coming after that ordeal, I would say to Buster, “Hey, Boo Boo, here comes Ranger Smith!” Buster lived for sixteen years and from that day forward his name was Boo Boo.
The point I am trying to make here is that from the rangers’ perspective, it might not be healthy in a National Park setting to be feeding animals in any form or fashion. You can still enjoy your bird feeding, but be careful what jurisdiction you are in. It is very possible that you are now on the Homeland Security Park Service Watch List as a bird-feeding risk. Another infraction may cause you more grief than you want to deal with. I agree with your husband. You have to move on. If you are finding this difficult, you might seek professional help in the form of anger management. It is not uncommon for Rvers, who have had Park Rangers yell at them, to suffer from agonizing years of flashbacks.
Another way around strict government rules, if you choose the path of Civil Disobedience, would be a more subtle form of bird feeding and attraction. Instead of a hummingbird feeder, hang flowers. Instead of offering birds seed, offer them water. Try a slow drip from a hanging milk jug onto a small rock with a depression. This will attract all kinds of animals to your site without attracting too many rangers. Control your stress and your bird-feeding urges, or your stress and bird-feeding urges will control you. —Keep Smilin’, RV Shrink
The RV Shrink is not really a psychologist (or professional RV technician). But he does knows a lot.