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A $250 fine is just one of the many reasons you don't want to do this in Bellingham

Feeding deer in Bellingham is illegal - and will be expensive if you’re caught

The Bellingham City Council has banned the intentional feeding of deer and raccoons within the city limits.
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The Bellingham City Council has banned the intentional feeding of deer and raccoons within the city limits.

Remember the ban on feeding wild deer and raccoons in city limits that went into effect in 2017?

No? Well, you can refresh your memory at an April 16 forum, which will focus on the ban and healthy ways to coexist with a growing population of urban wildlife, Bellingham officials said.

The event begins at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall, 210 Lottie St.

The City Council approved the ban in October, saying that feeding wildlife wasn't good for the animals, or the people affected by the activity.

The new rule comes with a $250 fine for repeat offenders, but Bellingham police said they're holding off on tickets during this educational phase. Code enforcement officers have received three calls about the issue.

The City Council approved the ban in October in response to residents frustrated by neighbors who feed deer, attracting them in unnaturally large numbers and exacerbating problems that come with a burgeoning deer population.

In the run-up to the council's approval of the new rule, South Hill neighbors told the city they were frustrated by deer eating plants in their yards, becoming aggressive and trampling their dogs and, in one case, running into the side of a car.

The new rule zeroes in on people who intentionally feed deer and, by extension, raccoon because both species are drawn by the same food. So, people won’t get in trouble if deer eat their landscaping, fruit from their trees or greens from their garden, their pets’ food or seeds from their bird feeder, the city has said.

The April 16 forum will include Cole Caldwell, a Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife supervisory biologist, who will discuss deer biology and habitat as well as the impacts of feeding wildlife.

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A yearling black-tailed female deer browses on vegetation alongside Lakeway Drive in Bellingham. In 2017, the city banned people from feeding wild deer and raccoons. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

"These are herbivores. They're browsers. They tend to come and go," Caldwell said, adding that, for example, in the spring deer nip buds to get more nutritious foods that exist naturally.

Grains, apples and beets are among the worst foods to feed deer, Caldwell said.

High-carbohydrate feed, particularly, cause something called "overeating disease," he said. Other conditions include what's called "grain overload."

Ultimately, feeding could kill the very deer that people think they're helping, wildlife officials said.

As for raccoons, attracting them is an issue because they’re one of the primary carriers of rabies and their feces is commonly infected with roundworms, which can be a health hazard to humans and pets, wildlife officials said.

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A shaft of light hits the face of a young raccoon. In 2017, the City of Bellingham banned people from feeding wild deer and raccoons. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

People at the forum also will learn how to protect yards and gardens from hungry deer.

Learn more by going online to cob.org and typing "Keep Wildlife Wild" into the search window.

If you love Whatcom Wildlife

Join us in our Facebook group Whatcom Wildlife. The Bellingham Herald created this group because we know so many people love to take pictures and video of the animals around us. And while we might want to publish a photo from the site, we’ll always ask the photographer’s permission first.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea
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