Council bucks deer feeding ordinancePublished 10:41am Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The Austin City Council voted 4-2 during its Monday work session to drop a potential ordinance banning deer feeding after a somewhat heated debate over whether city officials could enforce the policy.
While Council members Judy Enright and Jeff Austin believed residents needed such an ordinance to prevent accidents, Michael Jordahl, Roger Boughton, Janet Anderson and Jeremy Carolan voted against further researching the topic.
“How in the world do you enforce the ordinance?” Boughton said. “I really don’t think the ordinance is workable.”
Several residents approached city officials over the past month complaining of residents feeding deer, which they said created safety issues when deer crossed the road and could cause disease and ill health effects in the local deer population. Austin resident Charles Mills told the council at its Aug. 5 public meeting that deer consistently got into his yard and crossed the street near his home because a neighbor on the other side of the road put out a barrel of corn feed for the animals.
Yet several residents spoke against a deer feeding ordinance Monday night, including a couple who live on a 10-acre plot of land in southwest Austin who have fed deer living near Turtle Creek for the past 25 years. They told city officials the deer have never been a problem for neighbors as the animals come out of wooded areas for a brief time to feed before returning to their habitat.
Mayor Tom Stiehm was initially for a deer ordinance — he called deer “the enemy of humanity” at a Aug. 5 work session and said deer killed more people in the U.S. per year than any other animal — but said he would advise some residents who lived near waterways and wooded areas to seek variances if the council passed an ordinance.
Enright said an ordinance could be enforced through a complaint-based system, where residents could report their neighbors for going against city policy. Austin agreed, saying residents who purposefully leave corn to attract deer to their yard were creating a public nuisance.
Yet Boughton argued the ordinance wouldn’t prevent deer from feeding off bird feeders, gardens and other items a person may have in his or her yard, which could make enforcing an ordinance impossible.
City Administrator Jim Hurm said many Minnesota cities have an ordinance prohibiting citizens from feeding deer.