I have been watching with great interest and horror the bylaw battle in our twin cities over feeding urban wildlife. My city hasn’t yet gotten to the stage our twin has, but I’m fearful it is coming.
The argument has been, in our next-door city, that certain people are throwing so much food in their yards that they attract not only birds, cute chipmunks and squirrels, but rats, raccoons and possibly coyotes.
When I made an offhand comment about this to Gill (accompanied by several pertinent newspaper clippings) she said:”Wow, Ma, you’d better look out. Soon the police will come looking for you! Imagine the fines you’ll have to pay…you’ve been feeding the birds and other critters for over 25 years. You better hope they don’t make the bylaws retroactive or you’re in big trouble.”
I do worry that they might do just that. I might have to re-mortgage the house to pay THAT fine. I guess it’s my equivalent of my children’s library fines from years past.
Never mind that, for me to quit feeding my on-site wildlife would be tantamount to quitting smoking cold turkey. I admit, it’s an addiction I have. But, come on people! I have lived in three different houses in this area, since the early 70s, and the ducks have followed me. They are, for all intents and purposes, my pets. I just happen to keep them outside. I have gone from buying bulk cracked corn at the feed mill to hoisting 40 pound bags of mixed wild bird seed every week from the local grocery store. I have trekked out in rain, sleet, snow, thunderstorms to make sure the birds don’t starve.
I think, rather than fining me, the city should award me a Medal of Honor. Why, the ducks especially have become something of a local tourist attraction, bringing the neighborhood kids to delight and gawk. Okay, perhaps there is the little matter of screwing around with their natural instincts to forage for food, but hey, wouldn’t we all prefer to have our dinner brought to us rather than going through all the work and mess of cooking it ourselves? Of course we would.
And I fear the consequences of cutting the birds (especially the ducks) off. Like smoking, I have tried to come down off my addiction gradually — from four buckets twice a day to two, then only once a day, now just one bucket.The poor sad flock of female ducks still comes. I tried to explain to them that I have to cut back but they don’t listen. I may have to go into addiction therapy. And while I’m in therapy, they are likely to escalate their bold behavior, flying onto my deck and crash landing beside the barbecue. If I quit throwing seed out for them, I fully expect them to come in a hoard and kick their silly orange feet against the back door demanding to be fed. Ducks can be vicious.
I do acknowledge that it would be easier for me to go away on trips if I didn’t have to worry about the ducks being fed. I take my responsibility to the ducks seriously. Just as I looked after my children, once I’ve made a commitment to the ducks, I’m all the way in.
It is true that other unwanted wildlife has begun to creep in. When Gill was here, she saw the groundhog sunning himself and partaking of the seed buffet on the lawn. She yelled at me:”Ma, did you know you now have a groundhog? I’m going to scare him off so we can follow him and make sure he’s not taking up residency under your deck.”
She did so and we discovered that he’s claimed the neighbor’s shed as his, digging a rather large hole under it to act as his entrance. This leads me to think that I may have to resurrect my water gun, the one I keep handy to bombard the black cat that stalks my feeders. I tell you, being the law and order keeper, the sheriff if you will, to all these unruly critters is a full time job.