Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
City staff have been directed to draft a bylaw to control the feeding of wild animals on private properties.
Caroline Street residents have been making a stink about the number of skunks and raccoons in their neighbourhood for months, pointing their fingers at one homeowner who they say regularly overfeeds bird feeders and leaves table scraps on the ground in the backyard.
“I wish I could give you photographs that show three, four skunks and raccoons sitting and feeding at the same time,” Terry Randall said at last week’s Protection to Persons and Property subcommittee meeting.
Randall, one of several west-end residents pushing for a local law to stop the overfeeding, noted all of the literature he’s read indicates human food is not good for the animals’ diets. There’s also concern about the spread of disease due to the crowding of animals, he added.
Initially, subcommittee had recommended the humane society take the lead on an educational program. But Randall and other residents – some of whom have had to pay to repair damage to their homes caused by the animals and to stop them from burrowing underneath their decks – don’t think education goes far enough.
Randall said he approached his neighbour with information about the effects of overfeeding and was told the animals are coming around due to the proximity of the Old Grove.
In an earlier interview with the Gazette, Carol Rennick said she has lived in the neighbourhood for over 40 years and that skunks have always been a nuisance.
But Rory Feore said he’s seen “platters of food” left outside and at times five skunks and three raccoons eating at the same time.
“My children used to say, ‘what’s on the menu tonight?’” he added, noting he felt the bylaw would be a natural extension of the city’s existing rules against habouring wild animals.
His wife Correy added she is unable to open their windows during cooler nights in the summer due to the smell of skunk.
Subcommittee agreed with the neighbours that there has to be something on the books to stop the most egregious offenders.
“We need to stop this because it is a huge problem,” Coun. Karen Smythe said, adding she knows of at least one other area of the city where overfeeding of wild animals has become an issue.
Councillors Bonnie Henderson and Brad Beatty maintained it is important that educational materials be available to the public through the city and humane society.
Beatty added he was a little concerned that the homeowner in question had not been approached directly by the humane society.
Before drafting a bylaw staff will look at laws already established in cities like Mississauga and Hamilton. Randall said the bylaw could be as simple as prohibiting overfeeding and forcing homeowners to clean up any spills.
“I know we’re not going to totally get rid of skunks and raccoons 100 per cent,” he added. “But I’d sure like them to go back to their natural habitat and fight for food there as opposed to in my backyard.”