As the crow flies, a resolution on overfeeding wildlife in Midland could come as soon as the next meeting of council… but that’s unlikely.
Resident Mitra Doherty contacted MidlandToday in the summer of 2022 with concerns that wildlife were being overfed in the vicinity of Aberdeen Boulevard and Riverwalk Place, near the mouth of the Wye River.
Doherty expressed frustration at the increase of rodents and birds, as well as the increase of their natural predators, moreso since the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre is a provincially significant wetland and woodland just a short distance away. Photographs showed a waddling of ducks resting near her property in the winter, while a summer photo of a lurking coyote was also seen.
She told MidlandToday that upon privately speaking with a member of town council at the time, she was advised to address council directly.
A year later in June of 2023, Doherty made a deputation to the new term of council armed with research into the town’s historic bylaws on wildlife feeding, and with a request to review that bylaw.
Doherty’s deputation touched on several points, citing the 1997 'feeding geese and seagulls' bylaw that stated ‘no person shall feed Canada Geese and/or seagulls within any park in the Town of Midland’ where proper signs are on display.
Likewise, she posted warnings from the province, federal not-for-profit group Coyote Watch Canada, and shared concerns she’d heard from regional chicken farmers about the potential spread of the H5N1 (bird flu) virus.
In addition, her presentation included the photos she’d taken from her property of various squirrels, ducks, raccoons, and other wildlife feeding in the area. One offer she made was for council to keep spill-free and squirrel-free bird feeders within their considerations.
The June meeting involved Coun. Bill Meridis taking interest in the 1997 date of the bylaw, suggesting to staff: “We may want to look a little further into that bylaw and take some action on it.”
Mayor Bill Gordon thanked Doherty for her presentation.
“I think many of us have been in receipt of your emails, and you’ve offered some pretty compelling evidence that it would be worthy to tighten up our bylaws rather than just dealing with our parks as they are right now," said Gordon.
Then Midland council took the summer off.
At the most recent meeting of council, Doherty was in attendance as Coun. Catherine MacDonald readdressed the topic: to ask staff to review the bylaw; to have staff do a report that considered the prohibition of feeding all wild birds and animals in town, with an amendment that allowed feeding birds on no-spill feeders.
Coun. Jamie-Lee Ball was in favour of the no-spill feeder added on, calling it a “reasonable ask.”
Additional mention of a resident ‘peanut lady’ who could be seen feeding critters daily in Little Lake Park was raised by Coun. Roberta Bald to the knowing chuckles of some on council, with Ball adding that such actions put peanut-allergic children at risk.
As the topic of old bylaws returned, Gordon offered to council that they consider defeating MacDonald’s motion – and thus Doherty’s request – with the intent that a wide-ranging scope bring all older bylaws to light, as had been requested by MacDonald earlier in the evening, instead of spending staff time to focus in on a specific amendment to Doherty’s concern that was considered unenforceable.
“There's really only two options for us right now,” said Gordon. “We can pass this the way it stands, and we're going to have that sort of singular response come back at some point. Or, we can defeat this right now – and not saying we disagree with the concept – but just trust staff that they've heard us.
"And when that list of bylaws is prepared for us to re-rank, I suspect we'll see this one up near the top somewhere with property standards and clean lawns, and other things that are pretty dated and aged that clearly, probably, need some top up too.”
Council voted to defeat the motion, with Gordon and Coun. Beth Prost assuring Doherty that the matter would be dealt with appropriately.
Doherty noted there wasn’t a mechanism within the town to report overfeeding activities since there wasn’t a bylaw to specifically address the matter. Gordon proposed that Doherty and any resident who had substantial, evidence-based complaints could send letters or photos to the town CXO, which would allow for town staff to look at it if deemed necessary.
A staff report on outdated bylaws is expected at a future committee of the whole meeting.
Council meetings are held on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, and can be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.