Coyote attacks spark demand for fines in Dallas for feeding wildlife; Some say the plan is not ready

The proposed Dallas rule change could Residents fined for feeding wildlife A city council member says it’s premature and too severe a punishment.

Dallas Zoological Services and Parks officials told council members during a committee meeting Monday that food that residents left outside for feral cats, birds and other animals has been linked to several instances of coyote sighting since he was a young child. Attacked by a person in the Lake Highlands in May. They say many people are ignoring warnings not to feed wildlife.

The proposed law, which has been in the works since June, would allow citations to be issued to people for intentionally feeding animals if it creates a public health or safety risk, damages property, causes 10 or more adult animals to huddle together, or socializes humans.

But council member Adam Bazzaldua said the city cannot expect people to only know the dangers of feeding wildlife and that until there is a citywide campaign on how to live safely in the same place as animals, the way city enforcement shouldn’t be on the books.

“We can’t even force our residents to keep their dogs on leash,” he said during the council’s Quality of Life, Arts and Culture Committee meeting. “So why are we going to use our resources to go to the neighborhoods and make sure that people don’t get fed [wildlife]? “

Bazaldua, who chairs the commission, noted that there is no limit to what could be considered destructive public or private property in the proposed law, and said he did not understand what the implementation plan was trying to solve “other than a PR moratorium.”

The proposed law, which is now being reviewed by a city attorney, would need city council approval. It is not immediately clear how much the fine could be for the violation. The section specifies in city ordinance that it will add a penalty of up to $2,000 for rules regarding public health and sanitation, or up to $500 for all other crimes, or the same amount in fines imposed by the state if the city’s ruling reflects a state law.

The proposed law excludes cases involving feral cat colonies registered with the Dallas Department of Animal Services that adhere to city guidelines and bird feeders on the property owner’s land that is not overstocked with food. Licensed veterinarians, peace officials or government employees who feed wildlife as part of a program to manage animal populations will also be exempt from the citation issuance.

Anne Barnes, assistant general manager of Dallas Animal Services, said the ordinance is intended to target people who are familiar with the rules and continue to feed wildlife.

“There isn’t anything where we go door to door to check the bird feeders,” Barnes said. “It will help us enforce both intentional and unintentional feeding when we have a wolf escalate behavior.”

MeLissa Webber, director of Dallas Animal Services, told council members that more feedback would be sought from residents before the full council considered the plan.

Since the wolf attack on the little boy, neighborhood meetings have been held in the Far North, Northeast and East Dallas areas about how the city is trying to tackle wandering wolves and what to do when they are spotted.

“We want to get some community feedback before putting it back in for approval,” Weber said. “We have the decree written, we just want to make sure we have the community buy in it.”

The city has been working to establish guidelines on How to respond to coyotes reports since the May attack. The plan includes a hotline where people can report coyote sightings so their movements can be tracked. The phone line has received more than 800 calls from within the city about the animals, according to Paul Ramone, assistant interim manager of Dallas Animal Services.

He said that work is also underway on better mapping of coyote encounters and an online model for coyote viewing.

The two-year-old was hospitalized in early May after being attacked by a wolf while sitting on his balcony near the White Rock Trail.

killed three wolves in the area shortly after the attack. Ramon said a total of four coyotes had been killed as of Monday, all of whom had tested positive for rabies.

Wolves have been known to feed on pet food, manure, litter, and small pests such as rats, dogs, cats, and unattended livestock. Leaving food outside for pets and stuffed bird feeders are among the things that can attract food-smelling wolves or foraging rodents, city officials said.

This summer’s drought conditions are causing more coyotes to congregate near city sewers and other water sources, said Brett Johnson, an urban wildlife biologist with the Parks Division. Increased awareness of the population also means more coyote viewing.

He said the city doesn’t have enough data to determine if there is an actual increase in the coyotes population in Dallas, but noted that the number usually increases when more food and prey are available.

Johnson also said feeding wild animals can lead to problems.

“If you’re feeding a lot of waterfowl in the area, you’re not just feeding the waterfowl,” he said. “You are intentionally gathering animals in a certain area, where we end up increasing predation.”

City officials recommend screaming and making loud noises when encountering a wolf. It is also suggested to throw objects near the animal and, if possible, splash water or shine bright lights towards it.

“They are naturally volatile, so we want to make sure that they realize that they need to maintain a level of fear of getting too close to humans,” Ramon said.

The city wolf watching hotline is 469-676-9813.

Ramon said the city would only kill coyotes as a last resort. In the city’s guide to how to respond to wolf behaviors, killing the animal is listed as an option only if the wolf is harming or killing an unattended pet or livestock in an enclosed backyard, and if the wolf exhibits aggressive behavior toward humans, such as baring its teeth or attacking a person.

Experts say that decreasing natural wolf populations tends to increase breeding during the next breeding season.

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