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City of McCall may ban feeding wildlife

Officials says the deer should be migrating but are staying around town because people are feeding them.

MCCALL, Idaho — The McCall City Council will decide on a proposal put forth by the McCall Police Department and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to prohibit the feeding of wildlife in the city.

Officials say not only is artificial feeding causing illness in wildlife, like deer, but as a species deer are supposed to migrate during the winter but they don’t because for decades residents and visitors have been feeding them.

“These deer have been fed for decades and so that several generations of deer that have never learned to migrate, which is what deer in cold parts of Idaho do every winter, they migrate to lower ground to find food, these deer don't know how to do that,” said Regan Berkley, the regional wildlife manager in McCall.

When humans feed deer, Berkley said it can sometimes lead to health issues.

“We have suspicion that many of the deer in McCall may have exotic louse that's causing them to lose a lot of hair,” she said. “Wildlife are pretty equipped when they do migrate to find food on their own and thrive in that kind of situation.”

So to break the decades long habit, a ban on feeding wildlife is being proposed. However, the change could be drastic and could lead deer to starve to death.

“The best response would be to trap and translocate which is something that we are equipped to do and prepared to help with,” Berkley said.

Each deer would be inspected, and every healthy deer would be relocated to winter range areas. Any deer that shows signs of transmitting parasite or disease, would be euthanized.

“It’s an emotional issue of course and so many times when emotion takes over, rationalization goes out the window, so we have seen about a 50/50 split of people for it and people against it,” said McCall Police Chief Justin Williams.

Williams said the department constantly responds to animals injured from car accidents and fawns being born in people’s backyards, attracting predators that the city wouldn’t normally see.

“We realize that the deer herd here is somewhat of an enigma, people love seeing them, but they don’t have to deal with the other aspect of safety,” he said.

Berkley hopes that residents and visitors understand this relocation program is not an all or nothing deal.

“No deer will not be eradicated from McCall, we are hoping to help these deer relearn wild habits, and those habits include coming back to places like McCall in the summer time,” said Berkley.

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