Tuesday, February 17, 2009

WASHINGTON STATE NEWS: State Considers Feeding Ban For Some Wildlife, Including Deer

DIAMOND POINT -- For the last three years, Jerry and Anne Stiles say they have been living with an infestation.

But it's not the creepy, crawly kind that infests their property.

The pests, they say, are deer.

They say the blacktail deer population near their home at Diamond Point has tripled because about three or four neighbors intentionally feed the animals regularly.

The result, they say, is that the deer that have lost their natural fear of people and have become increasingly aggressive.

That is why the couple testified at the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee of the state Legislature in Olympia last week in support of House Bill 1885.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, at the request of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, would allow law enforcement to fine people $104 for feeding certain types of wildlife if they fail to heed an earlier warning.

Wildlife listed in Van De Wege's bill includes deer, bears, cougars, wolves, ¬ opossum, skunks, raccoons, elk and turkey.

The bill would exempt farmers and hunters who unintentionally feed those animals.

"We don't mind the deer, per se," said Anne Stiles, 55.

"It's the feeding and behavioral changes that are really alarming."

Jerry Stiles said the deer walk up to people expecting to be fed, and they can be aggressive.

Anne Stiles said deer have nearly attacked her four times.

One of those incidents occurred about a year ago when she was walking her small poodle-mix dog, she said.

A doe, about 75 feet up the road, began moving toward her in a threatening way, she said.

Jerry Stiles said that after he heard his wife scream, he ran outside with an umbrella to try to scare the doe off.

The doe ran into an adjacent lot -- "and the next thing I know, it was charging at me full force."

"I really thought she was going to kill me," Ann said.

"I froze, screaming."

Jerry Stiles said the deer didn't stop its charge until he opened the umbrella in front of his wife.

This, he said, startled the animal, which ran away.

Bruce Bjork, Fish and Wildlife enforcement chief, said the biggest problem with feeding wildlife is that they become "habituated."

"Once they get habituated, they lose their fear of humans . . . then we end up posing a public health and safety risk," Bjork said.

"They are causing more disease, and more aggressiveness causes potential harm to humans."

Bjork said he was not aware of a particular problem in the Diamond Point area.

He said Fish and Wildlife warn people of the dangers of feeding wildlife, but without approval of Van De Wege's bill, the department can't impose penalties.

Jerry and Anne Stiles said other neighbors have felt threatened by the neighborhood's aggressive deer, but they don't know of any people or pets who have been injured by the animals.

Jerry Stiles said they and other people who live in the community of about 500 homes have tried to talk their neighbors out of feeding the deer.

"We do like the deer," he said," but this is an infestation."

Source: Peninsula Daily News


orcaview said...

We too, have experienced an increase in the size of the herd in our neighborhood due to feeding by a few. More alarming than the size is the condition of the herd. We have seen deer with huge hanging boils all over their body, hair loss, wasting disease, and unusually small fawns who don't make it through the winter.

It's a shame that it has come to having to write a law, but we have found that there is no talking to the feeders. They just are not intelligent enough to know the harm they are causing and are only thinking of themselves and the joy they get by taking these beautiful wild creatures and turning them into domesticated but sick pets.

orcaview said...

One other factor I forgot to mention in my original post. The concentration of deer in our neighborhood is attracting cougars and coyotes. There were two cougar sightings recently and we hear the coyotes on a regular basis.