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South Valley Riverton Journal

ICYMI: Feeding wild birds now limited by new city code

Feb 09, 2024 02:28PM ● By Travis Barton

Residents can only feed wild birds and fowl under specific guidelines now after the council approved an ordinance giving city officials enforcement ability. (Photo by Pxhere)

Feeding wild birds is officially illegal in Riverton, with exceptions. 

The Riverton City Council passed a new city ordinance in December that limits feeding wild birds to private property and along waterways. Other property, that includes public parks and park strips, is now officially prohibited in city code, giving animal control and code enforcement officers the ability to penalize rule breakers. 

Prompted by resident concerns that feeding wild birds invites them to congregate and create nuisances, city administration created an ordinance that limits feeding wild birds to private property only where front yard containers—often bird houses—must be five feet off the ground and 10 feet from the property line. That distance continues in the back yard, but any feeding container can remain at ground level. 

“Ducks may seem like a funny thing for you to be worried about, but we’ve put up with them for a long time,” resident Richard Ludlow told the City Council in December. 

Prior to approval at the December council meeting, three residents spoke of frustrations with neighbors who have been feeding ducks and other birds by spreading feed on the front yard and sidewalk, drawing large groups of wild birds to the area. 

“There are significant harmful effects on humans and animals for feeding the wild ducks and birds,” said resident Sharla Lenare, highlighting diseases, sicknesses, overcrowding, aggressiveness and feces all over the sidewalk. 

Ludlow, a wildlife biology teacher who majored in wildlife resources, said it is a safety issue, noting he’s hit three mallards driving on his 25-mph street. 

“These are wild ducks, they’re supposed to migrate,” he said. “They’re not supposed to stay here. When we feed them, they imprint that and they stay here. If we don’t feed them, when it gets cold, they migrate.”

Another resident, Kurk Weidauer, said this has been a three-year problem with dozens of ducks flying in circular patterns over their houses leading to the birds defecating on cars, properties and homes. 

Lenare was confused why the city took so long to address the issue, saying the county health department already has regulations for how to deal with these situations. 

“Why wait this long…when most of this stuff is just reinventing the wheel,” she asked. 

City administration explained they created the ordinance due to a perceived lack of follow through by the county of its own ordinance, and the city lacked its own ordinance that would empower them to take enforcement actions. 

“We needed something on our own books,” Councilmember Troy McDougal said.

The original proposal of the code allowed feeding along waterways and public parks. McDougal preferred a wider ban on feeding everywhere except backyards to respect property rights. He noted any communication with experts who work with wild animals would suggest the same solution and he wanted to prevent public spaces from being affected by individuals feeding wildlife.

“When people feed wild animals, there are always problems,” he said. “I’m not saying we’re going to run around and become the duck police. This has become a horrendous problem in my community and it’s going to become a problem in other communities if we don’t start addressing it.

“There’re so many health issues that come with it.” 

Councilmember Tish Buroker was hesitant to make feeding ducks along the river an illegal behavior, while Councilmember Tawnee McCay preferred the ordinance’s original proposal. 

In the end, McDougal felt comfortable with a compromise that prohibited feeding in public parks but allowed waterways with his priority to get them out of residential areas. The ordinance passed 2-1 with McCay dissenting. 

“It’s a real issue for us, even though it may seem minor,” Ludlow said.  λ