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Question
I don't like the idea of old table scraps going to land fills so I freeze them and toss them into a nearby canal containing fish in aquatic plants. I live in South Florida and our canals are filled many different species of fish and plants. Am I doing any harm to this ecosystem as long as only throw food into the canal WITHOUT wrappers or containers?

Answer
Dear Luis,

While I applaud your environmental consciousness, throwing table scraps into our canals is not a great idea.  It will do little more than promote the growth of already thick bacteria.  Almost all the bodies of water in southern Florida are highly eutrophic, meaning they are over-full of nutrients.  This promotes the type of toxic algal bloom we're seeing off the coast right now.

The good news is something I learned recently:  our regular trash here in southern Florida does not go into the landfill.  It actually is burned for energy.  Not that the added CO2 is great, but it's better than landfill.

I'd suggest you place any animal-origin garbage (meat, dairy) in the freezer until trash day, and start a compost pile for all your plant-origin garbage.  You don't have to wait long for nice soil to develop here in southern Florida!  Our compost heap turns into soil in about two weeks in the summer!

The place for table scraps is in the trash or the compost, where it won't contribute to the pollution of our water table.

Hope that helps!

Dana

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

I'm an evolutionary biologist with a passion for animals. Ask about natural history, behavior, ecology, evolution. PLEASE NOTE:

If you have found an "orphaned" or injured wild animal or bird:
Please don't waste time asking questions on the internet, as the answers may come too late. DO NOT FEED THE ANIMAL, and DO NOT HANDLE IT unless it is in imminent danger. (Many wild "orphans" are not orphans at all!) If you are absolutely sure it is orphaned, keep it warm and quiet, and find a LICENSED WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR HERE. Don't try to raise a baby yourself, or rehabilitate an injured anmal. Many a well-intentioned rescuer will do more harm than good, especially with baby birds and baby rabbits.

I.D. OF MYSTERY ANIMALS
Without geographic location, time of day and habitat, I can't help. A clear picture is always best.

I.D. OF MYSTERY ANIMAL SOUNDS
It's impossible for me to I.D. an animal call without hearing it myself.

COMPARATIVE STRENGTHS
I'm not an expert on comparative strengths of different animals (more complicated than you might think!) nor bite forces.

FIGHTING ANIMALS
I refuse to answer "Which of these two animals--X or X--would win in a fight?".

These hypothetical matchups range from impossible (Grizzly Bears and Gorillas don't even occupy the same continent.) to ridiculous (Someone asked me "Who would win a fight between a Great White Shark and a tiger?").

The vast majority of animals--even the fierce and powerful--are not as warlike as Homo sapiens, and it's childish to project our aggressiveness onto them.

Experience

I have been the fortunate caregiver to a group of Black-tailed Jackrabbits rescued from the Miami International Airport, and not releasable in this area because they are not native. I also have rehabbed and released Eastern Cottontails, and am in contact with many very experienced wildlife rescuers who regularly handle injured or orphaned rabbits and hares.

Organizations
House Rabbit Society

Publications
Exotic DVM journal

Education/Credentials
I have a Ph.D. in Biology, with main areas of expertise in evolutionary biology, genetics, botany, and ecology.

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