Maintaining a healthy relationship with the campus’s neighboring wildlife requires students to take steps to protect themselves and our animal friends.
Students can respect nature’s boundaries by simply admiring animals from afar, says university officials.
“Avoiding feeding the animals that roam onto campus is by far the No. 1 thing that we can do to foster healthy boundaries between us and the wildlife,” says Patrick Bohlen, director of the university’s Arboretum.
“Avoiding feeding the animals that roam onto campus is by far the No. 1 thing that we can do to foster healthy boundaries between us and the wildlife,” says Patrick J. Bohlen, a UCF professor of biology and the director of the university’s Landscape and Natural Resources and Arboretum. “Feeding the animals may seem like a genuine act of kindness, but you are actually habituating them to humans. Essentially, feeding animals causes them to lose their natural fear of mankind, and the ripple effects of that could be harmful for them and us.”
Bohlen says once wildlife begins recognizing students as a reliable food source, they will become emboldened to further encroach onto campus. This likely will lead to nuisance incidences, from animals foraging for food in trash cans to becoming aggressive.
The UCF Arboretum — located just east of the main campus — provides opportunities for members of the university community to explore and interact with natural lands without having to leave campus. Established by then-president Trevor Colbourn in 1983, the Arboretum is the largest of the natural lands that surround the main campus and provides volunteer experiences as well as study and research endeavors.
The natural lands in the university’s Arboretum and in the Lake Claire area possess a diverse ecosystem of wildlife. Smaller animals, such as squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, etc., flourish there and have been known to wander onto campus from time to time. Bohlen says the best thing students can do for their furry neighbors is to admire them from afar.
“Being able to interact with animal habitats in meaningful ways is not an opportunity that most universities offer their students. UCF is unique in that aspect. Students appreciate what the Arboretum and the other natural lands offers them and their educational experience here.” says Bohlen, who has overseen the Arboretum’s operations since 2010. “UCF proves that it is possible to have a relationship with natural lands and the animals living within them. We just need to keep the relationship respectful of our natural boundaries by appreciating the animals from a safe distance.”