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Group petitions city to ban deer feeding in Ocean Shores

A group of Ocean Shores residents implored the City Council recently to change the city’s code to ban all feeding of deer, presenting a petition signed by 183 people and arguing the current law creates a nuisance, a danger to the animals themselves and a health hazard.

“The public nuisance ordinance needs to be changed so it is illegal to feed deer any kind of food,” said Bob Anderson, a 26-year Ocean Shores resident.

Members of the group, including Anderson, pointed to a discussion on the issue on June 17 at the Ocean Shores Library in which a state Fish and Wildlife biologist told local residents that feeding wild animals creates a number of hazards and problems.

The city has banned bulk feeding of grains for deer, but many people still feed them fruit and vegetables.

Apples are “like junk food for deer,” Anderson said. “Apples are extremely bad for their stomachs. They cause early death, and cause them to produce unhealthy fawns. Apple feeding stations cause deer to herd up in areas and cause extreme danger for public collision. When deer lose their fear of humans, the behavior results in deer being hit by cars.”

Others complained about the rodents and related problems attracted to feeding areas, with the deer blamed for damaging gardens, spreading disease and feces.

The group wants the city’s ordinance to be changed to ban feeding of deer or other wild animals. The petition says: “We, the undersigned citizens and/or property owners of the City of Ocean Shores, Washington, respectfully request that the Ocean Shores City Council pass a law to make it illegal to feed deer anything.”

The existing ordinance gives the appearance the city “is in favor of feeding apples to deer, bears, rats, raccoon, etc., despite all the warnings,” Anderson said.

Charlene Magneson also referred to the session on wildlife feeding that was reported in the North Coast News last month, and noted that the roaming distance for deer in the area is about a mile. “We are loving our deer to death,” she said.

“So one person’s experience is not the same,” she added. A deer feeder in her neighborhood causes 10 to 15 deer to wander through daily.

“They have eaten every flower and expensive bush that has been put in, including color pots that are up on a porch five steps up,” Magneson said. “I have to wear boots when I mow the lawn because it is full of deer feces. My only recourse is to build an 8-foot fence, which I cannot afford.”

Changing the city code would be healthier for the deer and cause fewer problems, she told the City Council.

“The fine for those who are mass feeding should be steep, and signage could be put around town asking tourists to save our wildlife and please don’t feed the deer,” Manguson said.

Walter Weed, who has lived in Ocean Shores since 1991, volunteers at the Coastal Interpretive Center, and often tells many visitors about the local blacktail deer.

“We caution everyone while we are there about the blacktail deer,” Weed said. “It is illegal to hunt (deer) in Ocean Shores, so they just continue to multiply, and we have many fawns at the present time.”

Weed noted the biggest killer of deer locally is “the automobile,” and there are deer-vs.-vehicle accidents reported on a weekly basis to Ocean Shores police. One police vehicle even was totaled in a collision with a deer.

Donovan Scott has lived in Ocean Shores since 1987 and provided photos to the City Council showing a neighbor who feeds deer three times a day, bringing in up to 25 deer a day.

“It’s not a joke. That place is the restaurant, and our yard is the restroom,” he said.

Scott was part of an effort several years ago that got the city to ban feeding grain to the deer, and he said that should have been extended to ban any feeding of the animals.

While the City Council took no action after members of the group spoke up during the public comment portion of the meeting, a majority of four members agreed to add the issue as an item to be placed on upcoming council agendas.

Louise McCutcheon, a resident for 40 years, said the deer problem has never been worse: “We’re not doing well by the deer.”

“I have never seen it like it has been for the last five to eight years,” McCutheon said, noting she was among a similar group three years ago that asked the council to control deer feeding.

“The deer at my house leap a 5-foot cyclone fence,” she said. “The deer at my house sometimes come in herds and packs. I say, ”Go, go, go,’ and they look me in the face and come closer.“

Arelene Gray, who lives off of Marine View Drive, said she often has 20 or more deer in her yard daily because a neighbor insists on feeding them. ”We are nearly going broke buying deer repellent,“ she said.

Council members Jackie Farra and Holly Plackett did not want to add the deer issue to already-growing list of future council agenda items.

Plackett suggested holding off on the deer issue until the first of the year ”because we really have to concentrate on the budget priorities. We have this health and human services issue, which is very important too.“

”I think it warrants going on“ as a future agenda item, Bob Peterson said. ”These folks have brought it up before, they brought it again tonight. It’s certainly a problem. We can’t promise to get to it in the next few weeks, but we owe them the courtesy to put it on the agenda.“