A hungry herd

As elk become more emboldened, Gearhart officials hope to discourage interactions with humans with a no-feeding ordinance.

Spurred by safety concerns, the Gearhart City Council on Wednesday, Jan. 3, unanimously agreed to consider rules prohibiting the feeding of elk and other wildlife.

Bebe Michel, a resident, came before the council in July seeking ways to minimize elk and human interactions.

In response, city councilors and staff held a work session before drafting and finally delivering the ordinance Wednesday.

The proposed ordinance borrows from similar code enacted in Warrenton, which prohibits “allowing food or other attractants” to be placed on public or private property with the intention of luring or feeding wildlife, City Administrator Chad Sweet said.

“The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife thought this would be a good start to trying to help our problem,” Sweet said. “Even though we don’t know of any specific feeding here locally, in other communities it does become an issue, with people feeding elk apples and other food.”

The ordinance would allow feeding songbirds or squirrels, provided that the food is contained in a feeder which is designed to avoid access by other wildlife.

Violation of the ordinance would bring a penalty of up to $500, but officials hope they’ll find compliance before issuing fines.

Mayor Matt Brown called the rules a “good common-sense first step.”

“There’s not a lot of things we can do as a city,” he said. “The ODFW is in control of the management, but they suggested this is a good first step to protect the citizens from that type of contact.”

The ordinance will return for a first council reading in February and a second one in March. If approved, it would become law 30 days later.

The city will join Warrenton and the Department of Fish and Wildlife with representatives of Oregon Solutions at a meeting at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Gearhart. The meeting is to “see if they’ll take up our cause,” Sweet said of managing elk on the Clatsop Plains.

Both Mayor Brown and Warrenton Mayor Henry Balensifer are expected to attend.

The mission of Oregon Solutions — a partner with the National Policy Consensus Center at Portland State University — is to develop sustainable solutions to community-based problems through collaborative efforts.“It’s not just a Gearhart issue,” Brown said. “It’s not just a county issue — it’s a state issue.”

Editor

R.J. Marx is editor of the Seaside Signal and Cannon Beach Gazette, and covers South County for The Daily Astorian. Reach him at 971-320-4557 or rmarx@seasidesignal.com.

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