Okaloosa County Commissioners could implement a “Wildlife Feeding Ordinance” that would prohibit the feeding of wildlife on county-owned or leased properties.
And restaurant owners are in favor of this.
At last Tuesday’s meeting, Rockin’ Tacos General Manager John Perry described to the board the issues his restaurant has been facing at The Boardwalk.
“We’re trying to get this ordinance passed so the public will no longer be able to feed any type of predatory birds on Okaloosa County property,” said Perry. “We’ve got a couple of folks that hang out on the beach and feed birds all day, every day. It’s become a very big nuisance to my business.”
According to Perry, the restaurant battles birds attacking people on the deck while they’re eating and also stealing the food.
“Then it becomes my job to replace the food that they’ve lost,” told Perry to the board.
Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel weighed-in:
“This is my district and I’m aware of this problem,” said Ketchel. “This happened before at Uptown Station many years ago, before we renovated it. There was a woman that fed the birds and I mean it made a terrible mess all over cars and everything. So I think this is very warranted and I’m very much in favor of it.”
Chairman Trey Goodwin suggested that there may be “some things in place that already prohibit” the feeding of birds, at least for protected species. He deferred to County Attorney Lynn Hoshihara.
“FWC has some provisions under their regulations,” said Hoshihara. “But we have a request to schedule a public hearing for the November 17th meeting for the board to consider a wildlife feeding ordinance that prohibits feeding wildlife in all County parks and County properties.”
According to County officials, feeding wildlife often has a detrimental rather than a helpful effect and may cause some species to concentrate so much on this supplemental feeding that they become a nuisance or threat to people.
“When fed, wildlife can overcome their natural fear and learn to associate people with food. This could result in a danger to people and damage to public property.”
If adopted, this ordinance would prohibit people from feeding wildlife at any county-owned or leased property, including public parks.
“This has become a major issue on the beach with bird feeding in front of the Boardwalk,” read the memo. “This issue has continued to grow in size and is impacting businesses and activities on the beach. The Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) officers have been unable to address this particular matter. This will allow the County to enforce this issue locally with animal control officer of local law enforcement with increasing enforcement for repeat offenders. In the past, this practice has become an issue at other locations around the County.”
If passed, the first violation will result in a verbal warning. Second violation will result in a $100 fine. Third violation will result in a $250 fine and a misdemeanor.
A public hearing will be held November 17, 2020 at 9am.