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City flips bird to downtown gulls

Feb 17 2012

Seagulls, crows and pigeons looking for a free lunch had best do their begging in the burbs outside Victoria's downtown.

Looking to keep a lid on nuisance wildlife, Victoria city councillors agreed Thursday to amend the city's animal control bylaw by adding a prohibition against intentionally feeding or leaving food out for deer, squirrels, raccoons or feral rabbits anywhere within city limits. The penalty could be as much as $350.

City staff had suggested including rock doves (pigeons), crows and gulls, in the general prohibition, but councillors amended the proposed change so as not to mess with what Coun. Lisa Helps called "the pleasure factor."

"You're down at Dallas Road. You're throwing some of you leftover sandwich to the gulls with your kids. The kids are getting excited and the gulls swoop in and that costs you $350. There's something that doesn't sit right," she said.

Instead, council suggested drafting a bylaw amendment that would prohibit feeding the nuisance birds within the downtown limits where problems with gulls and their droppings have long been an issue.

Coun. Chris Coleman worried he might be at risk of running afoul of the new regulations because the bird feeder he keeps at home regularly attracts squirrels.

"Now that I know that and I'm putting out feed for birds, am I intentionally feeding squirrels, too? Because that's a logical legal argument you can make," Coleman said.

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said common sense applies.

She said if crows, pigeons and gulls show up while someone is feeding ducks at Beacon Hill Park, there should be no fear of a ticket.

"I want to be clear that's not the intent," said Thornton-Joe, who generally takes the council lead on animal welfare issues.

Mayor Dean Fortin said enforcement will be based on complaints.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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