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City clamping down on deer feeders

If you feed deer in Ashland and get reported, you may find city Code Enforcement Officer Kevin Flynn in your yard, likely giving you a ticket of up to $435.

The city has just posted 50 new signs warning just that — and leaving no doubt they won’t sit by when it happens.

Mayor John Stromberg last fall held listening sessions, hearing about many attacks by deer and pleading with the city to do something — culling the herd with guns or arrows, injecting birth control with darts, relocating them — but, says city Administrator Dave Kanner, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife is in charge of deer and “They’ve told us over and over that the most important thing we can do is to get people to stop feeding them.”

City Spokeswoman Ann Seltzer says, “The City is severely constrained in its ability to address the (deer population) other than by educating the community.” This led to the passage in 2012 of an ordinance prohibiting feeding of deer, raccoons, wild turkeys and other potentially habituated wildlife.

The sign campaign was delayed by the two-year drought, while the city put up signs about using water wisely, but now, says Kanner, the city wants to educate people that they have no right to habituate wild animals to feeding by humans.

“If we get reports about feeding, we will send the code enforcement officer out,” says Kanner. “When deer get fed, they are acclimated to being around people. It gives deer the idea that interacting with the human population is the way to get fed.

“We encountered one couple who went to the Co-op every day, bought apples, cut them up and put them on a plate in their front yard. They think it’s cute to have deer in their yard, but it has an impact on the entire neighborhood. The deer aren’t going to stay on their property.”

A Tidings thread on Facebook drew many comments. Jamila Elliott notes, “I don't know that anything about the deer in Ashland qualifies them as wild animals. If people aren't hand-feeding them, they're just planting them yards full of food, not exactly the natural order of things.”

Phyllis Leilani Halstead posted, “When I lived in Jacksonville, people used to feed the deer. The deer developed some type of sickness from it. Jacksonville requested no one feed deer ... We have plenty of deer in our neighborhood of Luna Vista. They have plenty to eat. I don't feed deer.”

Kirtsten Bakke posted, “I was recently in Colorado Springs where a friend I was staying with was feeding local deer carrots. I didn't think anything of it until I drove up to her house one day and five deer were on the lawn, and I didn't have any carrots. I couldn't get to the front door soon enough and was nearly attacked by them because they were expecting food. Fines make sense to me.”

Robin Rose posted, “There are plenty of meat-eaters in Ashland. Harvest and feed the needy, I say.”

Louisa Reade posted, “Bring in the coyotes!”

Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara says they haven’t cited anyone yet, but they will if there’s probable cause, including witnesses or an interview with a potential violator. However, he adds, growing a garden of yummy veggies is not considered feeding “or I would have been in violation for my flowers.”

The city website warns: “No matter how cute and seemingly domesticated, these are wild creatures. Their behaviors are unpredictable. Don’t feed wildlife! Feeding can attract wild animals and their predators. It also causes wild animals to lose their fear of humans.”

The ordinance, 9.08.280, is on the city website. It says:

"A person who knowingly places, deposits, distributes, stores or scatters food, garbage or any other attractant so as to knowingly constitute a lure, attraction or enticement for deer, raccoon, or potentially habituated wildlife may be issued a written notification by an officer requiring the person to remove the food, garbage or other attractant within two days of notification.

"A person who receives a written notification ... shall remove the food, garbage or other attractant as directed."

The section also notes that, according to state law, "potentially habituated wildlife" means bear, cougar, coyote and wolf.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.