Nova Scotia

Halifax councillor wants ban on feeding wildlife in the city

Some Dartmouth householders have caused pigeon, rat and raccoon infestations because they regularly feed wild critters that wander in their backyards.

Pigeons, rats and raccoons are proliferating in some areas because residents leave food outside

Wild critters such as raccoons are becoming a nuisance in some areas because residents are leaving food outside for them. (CBC)

There's caring for wildlife and then there's being a nuisance.

Some Dartmouth householders have caused pigeon, rat and raccoon infestations because they regularly feed wild critters that wander in their backyards.

Now there's a proposed bylaw before Halifax regional council banning the practice of feeding wild animals in the city. 

Dartmouth Centre Coun. Sam Austin introduced the motion after dealing with complaints about some properties in his area, District 5.

Pigeons, rats and raccoons

One complaint involved a resident feeding a flock of pigeons. A neighbour complained that he lost a tenant because of the birds, Austin said.

"The tenant just got tired of pigeon droppings being on his car all the time."

Some Dartmouth residents complained about a neighbour who regularly fed a flock of pigeons outside his home. (CBC)

But another complaint was a bit more complex.

"The householder literally just takes the kitchen waste and throws it in the backyard to feed whatever is in the neighbourhood … a pork chop being thrown out there, literally whatever's on the table," Austin said.

"It's the kind of thing that doesn't make it a very pleasant experience to be next to. You end up with a very large number of rats and raccoons."

'Plug the loophole'

Some people made fun of the complaints and thought residents were overreacting, Austin said.

"It's funny until it's right next door to you, and then you realize, 'Oh geez, this really does have an impact.'"

The complaints wound their way through normal channels.

"The neighbours have spoken to them [residents] and they were not amenable to stopping the activity," Austin said.

City bylaw inspectors got involved and the Department of Natural Resources was called, but to no avail.

District 5 Coun. Sam Austin says a bylaw prohibiting feeding wildlife in Halifax is necessary after some neighbourhoods have been infested by pests. (CBC)

"There's literally no rule in place to prevent it. The province does not limit us in feeding wildlife except in parks, and HRM doesn't have a bylaw.… I was little surprised there was nothing on the books to prevent it," Austin said. "There was nothing we could actually do about it, under 'dangerous and unsightly premises' either."

He decided to bring a motion to Halifax regional council "to plug the loophole."

Bylaw common

He said this type of bylaw has been introduced in other municipalities across Canada such as in Toronto, Hamilton, Victoria and New Glasgow.

"Fredericton recently did after a woman who was going through chemotherapy ended up going blind from the fungus in pigeon droppings because her immune system was compromised," Austin said. "So there are some health concerns. It's just not good practice."

In Truro, where there's a been a ban on feeding wildlife since 2006, a woman was fined $233 in 2015 after being warned four times not to feed deer in her backyard.

It wasn't an issue Austin thought he would be passionate about when he ran for municipal office in 2016.

"You come into it, you have a bunch of issues, things you want to tackle — like planning and transit, making the city more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. And then there's the issues that find you along the way," he said.

With files from Maritime Noon