No-Feeding Wildlife Ordinance Not Passed in Wildwood
Residents who addressed Wildwood City Council members at Monday's meeting all spoke against a proposed ordinance that would prohibit feeding wildlife within city limits, yielding a $1,000 fine and potential 90-days jail time.
A recently suggested law about not feeding wildlife was summed up by one attendee at Monday night's city council meeting as really being about controlling some Wildwood residents, rather than controlling an increasing deer population in Wildwood.
While Wildwood city engineer Ryan Thomas said at Monday's meeting the proposed no-feeding of wildlife ordinance was moreso about compliance with state biologists' recommendations to not feed wild animals than residents getting fined or penalized, several residents and city council members voiced they saw the regulation as subjective, unenforceable and crossing certain personal rights' issues.
Council members heard a variety of compelling reasons from residents not to support the ordinance, before the motion failed with only six of the 14 council members present in support of it.
One resident said the ordinance merely pitted human bullies against bullies, and asked council members before their vote if a young Wildwood girl who hands an apple to deer would be fined. She said city officials would have to cut down people's trees and take out their hostas plants for compliance of such a law. "You are not taking the fun out of living here. My daughter will continue to provide apples to wildlife. I will replace my front yard trees with apple trees if I have to," she said. "If you pass this law, you are going to have to go all the way."
Dan Topik, another Wildwood resident, drew council members' attention to the variety of reader comments and feedback provided about this topic on Eureka-Wildwood Patch. Click here to see those comments verbatim.
Topik said while Wildwood was seeming to have an excessive amount of deer recently, he was concerned about the enforcement elements of such a law. "We're not staffed to police such an endeavor. This (non-feeding ordinance) ultimately will become known as 'the neighbors' revenge act.' Then it will become known as 'the lawyers' relief act.'"
Wildwood resident Sally Branson said deer eat a variety of items as grazers. "Deer were here, eating, before our property was bought 33 years ago. It was rural, and we asked Missouri Department of Conservation what to plant and what to feed. They suggested native species and sunflower seeds for birds," she said.
"If I continue feeding sunflowers, is that a problem under this ordinance? I moved my daylilies closer to our house, thinking the deer wouldn't come that close, but with the drought this year, they did. Would that be out of compliance?"
Branson said she wouldn't move to Seattle and not expect rain, or move to St. Louis and not expect tornadoes, and likewise wouldn't move to Wildwood without expecting wildlife. "The insidious nature of this ordinance puts neighbors spying on each other and then reporting to police. If neighbors dispute the charges, now we're in court."
She said deer move around to eat just to survive. "We all appreciated and enjoyed wildlife. Isn't that why we worked so hard to incorporate? You can't legislate common sense."
Wildwood resident and former city council member Aaron Luter said there is an issue because Wildwood's hunting regulations were "done wrong in the first place."
"The hunting ordinance is ridiculous, making it impossible to control deer on individual properties. It was passed against hunting, based on a dire public safety issue, but there's no evidence to back up the safety issue," he said.
Luter said deer concentration issues are really the problem. "We need to go back and review the hunting codes. But I do not want birth control introduced into our deer population, because I don't want chemicals in the deer meat I eat."
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Topik suggested city managers instead conduct a comprehensive review of how to best reduce or control the deer population, including meeting with state wildlife experts. He recommended a five-step plan that instead focused on educating Wildwood residents about the pitfalls of feeding wildlife, and on encouraging subdivision trustees to handle specific communications about this matter within individual neighborhoods.
Wildwood resident and former city council member Jean Vedvig also suggested education classes about deer management and wildlife best practices be pursued, rather than a law that doesn't define "prejudice annoyance" as a violation. She asked if businesses, such as West County Feed & Supply Store, Schnucks and Dickey Bub Farm & Home, that sell animal and wildlife feed would be held accountable for doing so, and thus fined, should such a non-feeding ordinance be put in place.
She also asked why individual wildlife was spelled out in the ordinance, and why turkey, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, turtles and even neighbors' cats were not targeted, because "they all have the same opportunities to wreak havoc."
Vedvig pointed out that Wildwood is vastly different than other St. Louis municipalities where this non-feeding ordinance had been put in place, and should be approached differently. "Town and Country, for example, is 11.9 square miles, whereas Wildwood is 67 square miles. We are 5.63 times larger!"
"Wildlife in Wildwood is natural," said Vedvig. "This ordinance is not going to reduce the deer population. People in Wildwood are intelligent. Why fine them? Why not educate them?"