Social media memes often recommend taking used jack-o-lanterns and porch pumpkins to local parks so deer can eat them. But while these memes may be well-intentioned, they’re actually giving bad advice that can hurt wildlife. This fall, make sure to dispose of your pumpkin decorations safely and responsibly.
“We love animals and of course want to do things we think will make them happy,” said Metro Parks and Nature scientist Katy Weil. “While people mean well, putting out pumpkins where wildlife will eat them can be more harmful than helpful. Pumpkins are filling and very high in fiber – and too much fiber can result in poor absorption of other nutrients. Also, Halloween pumpkins often have candle wax and other residue from decorations.”
Beyond this, disposing of food by leaving it out for wildlife can bring large numbers of animals together in unnaturally close quarters, promoting the spread of disease. The food and animals can also attract large predators, causing safety issues for park visitors.
So what should you do with your leftover pumpkins? Fortunately, in the Portland metropolitan region, you have good options. Unpainted pumpkins can go in your yard waste bin. (Be sure to remove any candles or wax first). Metro also offers great advice on how to make your own compost at home so that October’s pumpkin can become next August’s tomatoes.
Read about how to compost on Metro's website
For a safer way to watch creatures getting into the autumn spirit, the Oregon Zoo is holding its annual Howloween event on October 29 and 30, where you can see animals enjoying pumpkins that have been carefully added to their diets as special, seasonal treats.