Feeding ducks is a popular pastime in many cities, but it’s now verboten in Whitehall.
Whitehall City Council adopted emergency legislation Sept. 1 that prohibits the feeding of waterfowl, including ducks, geese and swans.
The ordinance was approved as an emergency at its first reading, with no discussion by the five council members who were present.
As an emergency, the ordinance is effective immediately.
It was introduced Aug. 25 during Whitehall’s meeting of council committees.
Mayor Kim Maggard said she sought the ordinance for one primary reason: poop.
Maggard said she asked council members to consider the new rule because of the number of complaints from residents related to geese excrement on sidewalks and the street along Ross Road.
“Children could not play safely on the sidewalk nor ride their bikes due to slippery feces,” she said.
Maggard also said some residents and pets have experienced health issues due to the inhalation of microscopic, airborne feces particles.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources lauded the city for the effort, particularly concerning the Canada goose.
“Geese poop a lot,” said Karen Norris, assistant wildlife management supervisor for District 1 at the department.
Norris said another benefit could be fewer injuries that happen when people, especially older folks and children, try to escape aggressive geese.
She said the decision might be unpopular, as not many municipalities have blocked the feeding of waterfowl.
“You can put up all the signs you want, but unless you’re willing to enforce it and write that ticket for it, people are going to keep (feeding) because they think they are helping,” Norris said.
But feeding waterfowl causes the animals to associate food with humans, increasing the frequency of negative interactions, she said.
Bread, the food that humans typically offer to ducks and geese, is “empty calories” and not nutritious, Norris said.
Feeding also draws large concentrations of Canada geese to small areas, often around ponds and walking paths, and can interfere with migratory patterns, Maggard said.
Whitehall’s ordinance states in part, “No person shall feed, cause to be fed or provide for domestic or migratory waterfowl within the city of Whitehall.”
The ordinance defines domestic waterfowl as “non-native ducks, geese (and) swans (not) retained in agricultural operations.”
It defines migratory waterfowl as those who make regular annual movements between two or more places for food resources or breeding.
Council members Lori Elmore and Larry Morrison were absent from the meeting for the 5-0 vote.
The ordinance was prepared by city attorney Michael Bivens.
“(Our) current city code (does) not regulate the matter,” he said. “Based on reports from (our) code enforcement, the city determined our code should have it in an effort to deter the activity.”
Violation of the new city code could result in a fourth-degree misdemeanor charge punishable by a maximum fine of $250 and 30 days in jail.