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Village May Ban Feeding Of Wildlife

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A proposed ordinance that would ban feeding wildlife in Ruidoso is set for a village council workshop Tuesday.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit feeding wildlife within the village limits, and it’s primarily aimed at the large local deer population. The law would establish a citation system and a minimum fine of $50 for violations.

State Game Department rules only prohibit bait feeding of wildlife for hunting.

Members of the Parks and Recreation Commission have already reviewed the ordinance, conducted two hearings and recommended to councilors that they also set a public hearing for further discussion.

In a memorandum to councilors, Parks and Recreation Director Debbie Jo Almager noted that Eastern New Mexico University-Ruidoso faculty member Quentin Hays put together the proposed ordinance, which was supported by wardens with New Mexico Game and Fish, the U.S. Forest Service and by Ruidoso code enforcement officers.

“The most daunting report was from Code Enforcement, who stated that the department averages up to five deer per day killed by vehicles during the spring and summer months, most heading in the direction where wildlife is being fed,” she wrote.

When opposition arose to a section banning feeding of feral dogs and cats, that wording was removed from the proposed ordinance. The village participates in a feral cat “trap, neuter, return” program with the Humane Society of Lincoln County.

Opponents contend that, as long as bears can raid Dumpsters and tourists visit Ruidoso hoping to see deer and bruins, feeding can’t be stopped. They point out the difference between a person who maintains a series of feeding stations for wildlife versus someone who occasionally throws out a piece of bread or an apple.

Hayes, a wildlife biologist, said he was contacted last winter by Parks and Recreation officials and asked to help draft an ordinance.

“Knowing the science behind bans, including the facts that feeding of wildlife increases disease vectors, leads to habituation, and increases human-wildlife conflicts, whether in automobiles or otherwise, I agreed to assist,” he said.

He met with biologists from Game and Fish and the Lincoln National Forest, and with village code enforcement officers, who also handle animal control.

Originally, the ordinance was intended to be reviewed by the Village Council this summer, he said. But that schedule was delayed because of the Little Bear Fire and its effect on the surrounding watershed and the loss of more than 250 homes.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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