Kalispell City Council passed an ordinance that will prohibit feeding fowl and abandoning domestic animals in city parks at a virtual city council meeting on Sept. 21.
“We’ve been working towards some kind of way to reduce the amount of feeding and waterfowl introductions at Woodland Park over the years,” Kalispell Parks and Recreation Director Chad Fincher said.
In an effort to encourage native waterfowl to migrate, city officials hope the ordinance will discourage park visitors from feeding the birds artificial food sources.
“Feeding the ducks can cause harm and can cause food dependency for those animals and spread disease and lead to conflicts with people,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Regional Information and Education Program Manager Dillon Tabish said.
The ordinance will also make animal abandonment in city parks a civil infraction. According to city officials, community members often dispose of unwanted chickens, rabbits and other animals in parks, especially following Easter.
Councilor Sid Daoud, the sole opponent, is concerned the ordinance will not be enforced and said he would rather see more effort put into education.
“A lot of people feeding probably don’t know it’s harmful,” Daoud said. Officials plan to install educational signs to deter public feeding with information about its negative consequences with the ordinance notice.
“I think signs are enough,” Daoud said. “I would suggest we remove the ordinance sentence from the sign and have them posted.”
In an effort to revitalize the Woodland Park pond, which has degraded over the years due to waterfowl overpopulation, the City of Kalispell has collaborated with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks on a “Restoring Back to Nature” project to control waterfowl populations and improve water quality.
Last spring, community members organized a domestic bird adoption day to rid the park of nonnative waterfowl, the first step to revitalizing the park. But while the absence of domestic waterfowl has improved Woodland Park, officials say public feeding is preventing native birds from migrating, which causes food dependency, disease spread and conflicts with people.
“This (ordinance) was a request from the state to make sure we are invested, to put some enforcement into keeping it clean,” Councilor Kyle Waterman said. “Furthermore, I think it is the educational moment that we do need to let our tourists know that when they come to Montana, you don’t feed ducks in our parks, citizens should know that as well.”
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.