The City of Winnipeg has ordered a St. James woman to get rid of her backyard bird feeder on the grounds the contraption provides sustenance for squirrels.
In November, the city's community services department informed Booth neighbourhood resident Debra Belcourt she violated the city's Neighbourhood Liveability Bylaw by keeping a "squirrel feeder," as well as bundles of branches and scrap wood, on her property.
Calling her property a nuisance and unsanitary, the city ordered Belcourt to ensure it's free of infestations of "insects, rats, mice and other pests or vermin" or anything that "provides or may provide food or harbourage for pest or vermin."
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Belcourt has appealed the order on the basis the wood in her yard is decorative and what's called a squirrel feeder is actually a bird feeder she purchased for $125 from a retailer specializing in products for wild birds.
"This is not a squirrel feeder. This is a free-standing, platform wild-bird feeder," Belcourt said Thursday in a telephone interview, explaining the device is designed to serve larger birds such as robins, juncoes, blue jays and mourning doves.
"They say it attracts vermin. Well, I don't have any mice," she said. "I think it's totally unfair. I live in a mature neighbourhood. There have been squirrels here for many, many years."
Belcourt's appeal will come before city council's protection and community services committee on Monday. She said she intends to have the order quashed.
There are no rules against feeding either squirrels or birds in Winnipeg, said Sherrie Versluis, owner of The Preferred Perch, a St. Vital store that sells a range of bird feeders, from $14.99 to $250 each.
City spokeswoman Kailey Barron confirmed there are no bylaws regulating feeders of any kind or dictating whether a person can feed wildlife in Winnipeg.
"However, if a property owner has created unsanitary conditions, these issues are dealt with under the Neighbourhood Liveability By-law," she said. "Our complaint-based investigations and orders for compliance are dictated by conditions found on a property."
Belcourt believes she has been targeted by a neighbour with whom she has had other disputes.
She suggested the order against her "alleged squirrel feeder" is essentially nuts.
"That's the crazy part about it. Squirrels can get on to hanging bird feeders just as easily. They're so agile, they can get into anything," she said. "So what if a squirrel does come and take a couple of seeds. It's not a big issue."