Feeding wild geese will now be illegal in West Fargo
You also can't feed leopards, dingoes, alligators, or crocodiles according to city law
WEST FARGO — In response to complaints of wild geese overrunning some neighborhoods, the city has changed its ordinances to make it illegal to feed wild birds within the city.
City Attorney John Shockley presented a change to the current city ordinances to explicitly prohibit feeding wild birds and animals. Many residents suspected the geese continued to return to their neighborhood because they were being fed by some residents.
"We looked at the ordinance and thought we should add that someone purposely feed wild animals," Shockley said Monday, Nov. 21.
He modified the current ordinance to make feeding geese a violation of city ordinance, punishable by a fine of $50 or $100. The first offense will be considered an infraction, but following offenses could increase the penalty.
"We would hope that after someone is caught, they would stop feeding the animals," Shockley said.
The ordinance will apply to any species of wild birds including turkeys and eagles, but it will not affect smaller birds such as song birds.
When neighbors requested the city do something about the wild birds earlier this year, some residents proposed steep fines.
"We request that a significant fine of at least $500 be attached as a penalty," said Kela Howell, a resident of the area.
The residents also asked the commissioners to administer a city ordinance with an agency to enforce the fines. Shockley said complaints will be mostly citizen driven, and citizens would likely have to testify in municipal court to escalate the charges.
"I"m hoping that a uniformed officer knocking on the door will be enough," Commissioner Mark Simmons said.
Wild geese have especially been in issue in neighborhoods such as the man-made ponds in the city's northern side, near Charleswood Park at 15th Avenue East and Sixth Street East.
Donna Hentges, a resident of the neighborhood, said that the influx of geese started occurring around 2015 and has grown since then.
"They return every year," Hentges said. "Every year there's more geese that come back."
Feeding wild birds was added to an existing ordinance that prohibits caring for, feeding or owning other wild animals.
The ordinance says "'feed' means making food, including corn or seeds, available for consumption outdoors, either by spreading on the ground or hanging at a height of less than 5 feet as measured from the grade at the pole or structure supporting the bird feeder. Maintaining live vegetation such as fruit trees, gardens or flower beds does not count as feeding.
The ordinance explicitly defines "non-domestic animal" or "wildlife" as animals considered to be naturally wild and not naturally trained or domesticated, or which are commonly considered to be inherently dangerous to the health, safety and welfare of people. The ordinance explicitly names lions, tigers, cougars, bobcats, leopards and jaguars, wolves, foxes, coyotes, dingoes, and jackals. Residents are also not allowed to care for any member of the rodent family, including any skunk, raccoon, squirrel or ferret. Any poisonous, venomous, constricting, or inherently dangerous member of the reptile or amphibian families, including rattlesnakes, restricted non-venomous constricting snakes, pit vipers, crocodiles, and alligators are also explicitly prohibited.
Wild birds are now defined in the ordinance as any type, species or breed of turkey, geese, ducks, pheasants, wood ducks, owls, eagles, and any other type of fowl not being kept for agricultural purposes within an agriculturally zoned district.
Michael Szymanski, the migratory game bird management supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish, said earlier this year that feeding the birds can create "bad habits." In one instance a goose knocked over a little kid for his sandwich, Szymanski said, adding the nearby water features create a situation that is impossible to avoid.
"There's always going to be Canada geese," Szymanski said. "If you take those (Canada geese) away, there will be more Canada geese that show up probably the very next spring or later that summer or fall."