Kalispell Council Addresses Waterfowl Feeding in Woodland Park

City officials discuss possibly imposing a city ordinance against feeding park's waterfowl

By Maggie Dresser
Ducklings swim about in Woodland Park with their mother in Kalispell on July 23, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In an effort to revitalize the Woodland Park pond in Kalispell and reinforce natural migratory patterns in the native birds that occupy the area, city officials are considering an ordinance that would make feeding waterfowl a civil penalty.

At a work session on July 13, city officials addressed the issues caused by the public feeding waterfowl artificial food like bread and chips. The unnatural food source causes aggressive behavior between birds and humans, dense populations, poor pond health, non-migratory behavior, excessive feces and angel wing, a deformity that causes flightless-ness.

While no decision was made at the work session, officials agreed to revisit the issue and potentially vote on an ordinance, which would make feeding a civil penalty in an effort to deter the public from the habit.

“It’s an attractant that keeps them there (and) they don’t end up migrating in the winter,” Kalispell Parks and Recreation Director Chad Finch said. “But the idea is to bring (the pond) back to nature where they come in spring, summer and fall and follow those natural patterns in the winter time and it reduces the population in the park.”

Officials have suggested installing informative signs to educate the public on the negative consequences that feeding waterfowl poses, but they worry signs alone won’t be enough. However, if a city ordinance was passed, enforcing it would be difficult with limited resources.

“I think signs are a good idea just to educate the public,” Councilor Sid Daoud said. “I don’t think we need another ordinance. I think people are already unaware of the ordinances we have.”

Earlier this year after the city council and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) brainstormed ways to rid Woodland Park of its nonnative waterfowl, more than 100 domestic birds were adopted, the first step in revitalizing the park pond.

Officials are also working with FWP to possibly deepen the pond to improve water quality and create a Hooked on Fishing program, which would provide fishing education for local students.

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