The Hailey City Council introduced an ordinance on Monday that would make the private feeding of backyard wildlife—except for wild birds and squirrels—an infraction upon the first offense and a misdemeanor upon the second.
The ordinance will require approval of three public readings to pass.
“It is unlawful for any person to intentionally or knowingly feed or attract wildlife ... except those birds and squirrels, by placing, depositing, distributing, storing, or scattering food, edible material, garbage,” the draft version states.
City Attorney Chris Simms said the ordinance was formulated in response to citizen complaints about residents leaving out hay and other attractants for deer and elk in their backyards. Recently, the problem has extended to public rights-of-way, alleyways and parks, he said.
“We have had an additional issue of wildlife feeding at Sunbeam Park, which really drives home the need to consider such an ordinance,” Simms said Monday.
According to City Administrator Lisa Horowitz, private hobby feeding has lured elk and deer to some of Hailey’s most populated residential neighborhoods, including Old Cutters and Old Hailey. The city has mailed out at least one cease-and-desist letter due to food-conditioned herds damaging property and presenting safety concerns in Old Hailey, she said.
According to Idaho Fish and Game, the congregation of large game animals in urban areas can put them at risk for digestive problems, parasite transmission, vehicle strikes, dog harassment and other types of human-wildlife conflict.
Feeding ungulates in the winter can also be harmful because they have specific adaptations to lower their metabolism rates in the winter months and extra food can send them into shock, according to Regional Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Sierra Robatcek.
“During winter, they’re adapted to digest dried, low-nutrient forage. Adding unnatural, rich food to their diet can create serious digestive problems, bloat and even death,” Fish and Game states on its website. “Feeding deer and elk in neighborhoods can also attract them to deadly plants commonly used in landscaping, as was the case in January 2022 in the Wood River Valley.”
Hailey Tree Committee Chair Linda Ries said she was concerned that more toxic yew plants were hidden in east Hailey neighborhoods.
“What happens is even though those plants have been there for years, it takes some time before the animals are finding it,” she said on Monday.
Another concern expressed was that ungulate herds may exacerbate wintertime mountain lion activity.
“The deer and elk eat what’s available and start patrolling the neighborhoods for more readily-available grub, while predators start sourcing their own food—including household pets—as residential conflicts with humans increase,” Fish and Game states on its website.
Councilwoman Kaz Thea said she had wanted to see such an ordinance for a long time.
“I’m very much in favor of this. We’d not be the first city to adopt something such as this. The only concern I have is that it would be super easy for someone to say, ‘I was feeding birds.’ But it’s the best we can do,” she said.
Mayor Martha Burke agreed. Recently, a mule deer in Old Hailey died after being caught in barbed-wire fencing, she noted.
“The solution is not training an animal to be dependent on us. That, in the long run, is certainly a fallible system of survival,” she said. ￼
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It's not a case of the Elk moving into the neighborhoods, its the neighborhoods moving into their winter range. I am guilty havign built a house in Old Cutters. The outgrowth of housing is not going ot get better. Why cant Hailey entertain the idea of an IDFG managed winter feeding program for the Quigley canyon area much like they do in KEtchum. Goal being ot fill in the nutrient gap we have created and keep the elk out of harms way. Seems simple.
Great idea! Please write to the City Council suggesting that. I already wrote them asking they delay this ordinance until summer, to avoid appearing completely tone-deaf on wildlife starvations in our valley and state. We are all supposedly "pro-wildlife", so the Council should prove it by helping residents feed wildlife, not criminalizing it!
How about getting wildlife friendly fencing finally? Barbed wire has no place in suburban areas which Hailey certainly is.
Hailey code 17.08A.010.01
A barbed wire fence is illegal in Hailey (unless determined to be necessary for security).
Your a little behind the time the latest is electric fencing, cheap and effective. Again the tax payer foots the bill for over development, when it comes to displaced wildlife.
Hailey Idaho Code of Ordinances
"No barbed wire or other sharp pointed metal fences and no electrically charged fence shall be permitted, unless after consideration, the commission makes a determination that such materials are necessary for security purposes."
But the county doesn't have a electric fence rule. Look at the north side of Quigley
rd. , by the parking area. One home owner is using an electric fence to keep elk out of their in ground swimming pool.
Welcome to the discussion.