Ellicott Must Be Ready To Enforce A Wildlife Feeding Ban Before Passing A Ban

Ellicott Town Board members are discussing the idea of a town ordinance to try to keep people from feeding wildlife in the town.

It’s hard to argue that those who feed the wildlife create problems, particularly in neighborhood settings. Putting food out in an area with few predators will bring deer and other wildlife. Ellicott Town Board member Rob White said homeowners have complained about rodent infestations in areas that are feeding deer and other wildlife. One neighbor ended up with a skunk inside her house that was likely attracted in part by the food left for deer.

So yes, it is a problem.

But board members shouldn’t pass the law unless they are willing to use the Ellicott Police Department to enforce it. And enforcing it will be the problem.

The state DEC is well aware of the issues with people feeding wildlife in Ellicott. Feeding deer in New York state is illegal, but there are issues with jurisdiction for the state to take action unless someone is feeding deer or bears. We note, though, that the DEC could likely issue fines to the biggest violators of the state law in Ellicott several times a week if it chose to do so. Rangers aren’t camped out in Ellicott because they have more important issues to deal with every day. Ellicott police are likely in the same position dealing with a gamut of serious crimes and quality of life issues. Except in cases of blatant wildlife feeding we can’t imagine a way the ordinance is actually enforceable without neighbors documenting wildlife feeding with photos and video. People do have a right of privacy on their properties — and we can’t imagine going to a judge for a search warrant for a violation of a town wildlife feeding ordinance for throwing a couple of rotten apples out the kitchen window.

We don’t disagree with White, who is surely hearing from consituents that feeding the deer is an issue. But simply passing a law you can’t or won’t enforce doesn’t solve the problem. If Ellicott passes a wildlife feeding ordinance it had better be ready to enforce it.


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