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Bracebridge, Ont. passes new bylaw banning the feeding of wildlife

deer eating food off the ground in winter Photo by Nancy Bauer/Shutterstock

During a council meeting on December 13, the town of Bracebridge, Ont. approved a new bylaw that bans the “nuisance feeding” of wildlife on public or private land.

According to the bylaw, nuisance feeding refers to the feeding of any wildlife that causes an excessive accumulation of food, an excessive accumulation of wildlife feces, unreasonable interference with the normal use and enjoyment of nearby property, unreasonable interference causing risk to public safety due to animal behaviour, and the excessive attraction of rodents or predatory wildlife to premises.

“If our officers get called to a beach area and there is one group of birds, ducks, and the ducks are fed, all of the food is gone, that’s not a nuisance,” said Michael Mayer, the town’s chief bylaw enforcement officer, during an earlier council meeting. “If a hundred birds are coming to that feeding area and they’re walking across the roadway causing a traffic issue, a public safety issue, that’s when we’re looking at the potential that it’s causing a nuisance.”

Mayer added that the bylaw will be enforced on a reactionary basis. Once officers receive a complaint, they’ll investigate and determine if the circumstances constitute nuisance feeding. Property owners feeding songbirds likely won’t be affected by the bylaw as long as they’re not putting down an excessive amount of feed. The same goes for a property owner feeding deer as long as the animals aren’t causing issues around roadways, interfering with neighbours, acting aggressively, or attracting predators. However, each complaint will be investigated on a case-by-case basis.

The bylaw department first suggested a restriction on wildlife feeding to council in June. The town has been grappling with recent wildlife issues, including an excessive number of birds on public beaches as well as an uptick in coyote sightings. Over the last five months, bylaw has received 15 service call requests in response to aggressive animal interactions within the town.

At the time, council suggested bylaw release a public survey to get the community’s thoughts on wildlife feeding. A total of 176 people responded to the survey with 38 per cent of respondents supporting the ban on intentional wildlife feeding, 16 per cent somewhat supportive, and 46 per cent against the ban.

After tinkering with the wording of the bylaw so that it targeted nuisance feeding, the draft received council’s consent.

As the bylaw is rolled out, Mayer said officers would prioritize education rather than enforcement to gain voluntary compliance. However, if offenders don’t comply, they will be fined $200. The fine can be disputed in the provincial courts system if the offender disagrees with the charge.

People exempt from the bylaw include:

  • licensed trappers
  • authorized wildlife rehabilitators, or employees of a licensed pest management operation leaving food as bait to catch wildlife as part of their professional duties
  • a person feeding wildlife as part of a research program undertaken by a university, college, government research body, or wildlife research institution
  • a person feeding wildlife using a trap or capturing device to remove animals causing a nuisance to personal property
  • a person participating in a cultural, religious, or spiritual practice outdoors, provided the person cleans all food from the outdoor location after the practice.

“The bylaw doesn’t restrict specific animals at this point outside the nuisance of the feeding of animals,” Mayer said. “So, if we’re seeing a feeding is causing a nuisance through the definitions within the bylaw then our officers will go and investigate.”

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