The Bend City Council stopped short of supporting an ordinance that would ban feeding wildlife within city limits, but supports creating a resolution formally denouncing the behavior.
Neighbors in Awbrey Butte last summer who came to the City Council detailed how one neighbor choosing to feed deer and ground squirrels has led to the neighborhood being overwhelmed with animals — as well as significant property damage for some homeowners. The neighbors asked the city to consider a ban on feeding wildlife to resolve these issues.
At first blush, Deputy Police Chief Paul Kansky and code enforcement manager James Goff told the council on Wednesday that a wildlife feeding ban would be difficult to enforce, and that an effort to educate people about why feeding wild animals is harmful would be more effective.
“It seems like a lot of time to put into a matter when currently we feel like our police resources are being used in a good way,” Kanksy said.
Kansky said the issues at Awbrey Butte seem more incidental than intentional.
“I think (the deer) have lived on Awbrey Butte before any of us came here,” Kansky said.
Kansky and Goff also questioned whether enforcing an ordinance would be a good use of resources, given that neither the code enforcement or police departments see it as a prevalent issue. The police department has only received five calls related to wildlife feeding over four years, and the code enforcement department has only received one complaint in 20 years.
“Let’s make sure we’re not creating a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist,” Goff said.
But Councilor Bruce Abernethy disagreed, arguing that people likely weren’t calling the police or the code enforcement department because there is no law on the books that could hold anyone accountable.
“I think education is being oversold here … It’s not a lack of education,” Abernethy said. “They are doing what they want to do, and they’ve been told numerous times why it’s not a good idea.”
Both Abernethy and Councilor Bill Moseley saw value in having something enforceable on the books, even if the ordinance was mostly complaint-driven.
“I don’t see how you can both say there’s no calls … and that it will be an incredible resource drain,” Abernethy said. “It can be one or the other, but it can’t be both.”
But others on the council felt creating an ordinance isn’t the best approach when the problem appears to be isolated to one neighborhood and one particular culprit.
“(It) looks like everyone has talked to the neighbor,” Councilor Barb Campbell said.
“Who has gone to the feeder?”
Councilor Justin Livingston suggested neighbors adopt a rule within their homeowners association, which keeps the city out of an enforcement role.
Councilor Chris Piper suggested the city work with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to do more education on the issue.
“I think we are a little premature in putting an ordinance forward,” Piper said.
Instead, the City Council will consider a resolution which formally discourages people from feeding wildlife Feb. 5.