Helena considering amending ordinance to prohibit feeding of waterfowl

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

HELENA–After months of discussion, research and an online petition that has gained 677 signatures as of Feb. 27, The Helena City Council is on the verge of amending a city ordinance that would prohibit the feeding of wildlife and waterfowl and enforce fines for offenses on city property.

Councilwomen Alice Lobell and Laura Joseph have helped lead the charge to amend Ordinance No. 853-18 Section 6 with the end goal of making the city a cleaner place for both residents and visitors alike.

“Well it is a problem and it’s not going to be an immediate fix but at least we’re getting started and this is the right way to do it,” Lobell said at the Feb. 26 Helena City Council Meeting.

The meeting on Feb. 26 marked the first reading of the ordinance that would prohibit the feeding of wildlife and waterfowl on publicly owned lands in the city that includes city parks. Anyone not in compliance with the ordinance would face fines and penalties.

“Just as an overview, what we’re addressing is city property and not what’s in your back yard,” Helena City Council President Mike Jones said. “We had a couple of questions on that previously so we wanted to reiterate that.”

The main area of concern among citizens in Helena has been pinpointed to Joe Tucker Park and the nearby cemetery. The online petition alleges the overfeeding of geese has led to an abundance of goose droppings in the park, as well as on the graves of those buried in the cemetery.

Section 6 of the Helena Code of Ordinances would be amended to state that “No person shall purposely or knowingly feed, bait, or in any manner provide access to food to any wild animal or waterfowl within city parks or on other publicly owned lands in the city, or on any other lands within the city which are not owned by such person unless written consent to do so has been given by the title owner thereof and such written consent is in the actual physical possession of such person.”

If passed at the next council meeting on Monday, March 12, the amended ordinance would be enforced by animal control officers, code compliance officers and all public safety officers of the city of Helena. Failure to comply would result in a fine based upon the number of offenses.

The amended ordinance would fine an individual $100-200 upon conviction of a first offense or $200-500 upon conviction of a second or subsequent offense. Multiple offenses may result in an individual being imprisoned or sentenced to jail or hard labor for a period not exceeding six months, or both such fine and sentence, at the discretion of the judge.

In addition to the first reading of the amendment to Ordinance No. 853-18, the Helena City Council also approved the funding for a new sign at Joe Tucker Park in the amount of $4,867.