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Proposed ordinance would prohibit feeding deer, geese; Offense would result in petty misdemeanor

The growing deer and geese populations in Austin has caused the Austin Police Department to propose an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of deer and geese.

Police Chief Brian Krueger discussed the proposal with the City Council during a Monday work session.

Under the proposed ordinance, feeding deer and geese would be a petty misdemeanor. Should the ordinance be approved, the City Council will be responsible for determining the penalty.

The ordinance makes exceptions for veterinarians and any city, county, state or federal game officials acting in the course of their duties.

Under the proposed ordinance, feeding is defined as “the act of placing or permitting to be placed on the ground, or within six feet of the ground, any grain, fodder, salt licks, fruit, vegetables, nuts, hay or any other edible materials, which may reasonably be expected to result in deer or geese feeding, unless such items are screened or otherwise protected from deer or geese consumption.”

The definition does not apply to vegetation or other living food sources, nor to any food placed at least six feet above the ground or in a manner were it is inaccessible to deer or geese.

Mower County is currently under a temporary deer-feeding ban passed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in response to the outbreak of chronic wasting disease, or CWD, a contagious neurological disorder that affects deer, moose and elk, in neighboring Fillmore County.

The disease is similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy — “mad cow disease” — causing a degeneration of the brain that results in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death. The feeding ban went into effect in December 2016 and will run through 2017.

According to the DNR, feeding deer and geese can cause behavior changes, such as making them “less fearful of humans, delay winter migration, and even result in starvation if animals have not migrated to winter areas and feeding ceases.”

It could also result in a tighter concentration of their populations, allowing for disease to spread easily through contact or droppings and, particularly with deer, an increase in damage to private property and local ecosystems.

Deer and geese also have a tendency to eat themselves to death if too much food is available.

It is currently illegal to own a non-domesticated animal, including deer and geese, in the city of Austin.

The council recently approved a special deer hunt, scheduled to begin in November, to curb the deer population within the city limits.