PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council is attempting to find a balance between backyard bird feeding and discouraging the growth of the wildlife population.
Council members voted 5-1 Monday night on the first reading of an amendment to the city’s nuisance code that aims to discourage residents from feeding wild geese, ducks, gulls, deer and other wildlife.
City Attorney Heidi Greenwood said the action under the nuisance code would be enforceable through a code compliance officer and would not rise to the level of needing a police officer.
“We always strive for education first, and we wanted to continue that particular process, striving for education and helping people,” Greenwood told council members.
The nuisance code would “allow for a little bit of discretion and a little bit of a kinder, gentler enforcement action,” she said.
Council member Bob Gray cast the dissenting vote, saying he thought the ordinance should specifically address deer and not include birds.
“The first step is to deal with the feeding of the deer,” Gray said. “I thought we would see just an ordinance on ‘don’t feed the deer.’ ”
Council member David Faber said the ordinance came about specifically due to reports of residents feeding both deer and ducks.
“There were a ton of ducks in one person’s yard, causing all kinds of trouble in a neighborhood,” he said. “It’s definitely an issue that goes beyond deer.”
Safety, sanitation issue
The agenda bill specifies deer darting in front of cars and bicycles and causing wrecks, and flocks of birds leaving droppings on properties.
“Arguably, feeding wildlife is already a part of the nuisance code, but this ordinance will make that explicit and give the code enforcement officer specific authority to request compliance,” it said.
Mayor Deborah Stinson said retired City Manager David Timmons had attempted to contact the state Department of Fish & Wildlife for possible measures of control, “but there’s only so much we can do,” she said.
The city received suggestions from residents to sterilize or shoot the deer to reduce their population, but Stinson said Fish & Wildlife representatives warned them of a “boomerang effect” that could eventually result in a larger population.
Greenwood said there would be an appeal process with every potential enforcement provision. Eventually, a violator could be fined up to $250 a day or face criminal charges, but she said it’s unlikely to reach that level.
“We have lots of people who have bird feeders in town,” Greenwood said. “Those are very innocent and fun, and we don’t want to cut that off.”
The ordinance would need to return to a future council meeting for final approval before it goes into effect.
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].