Law may ban duck feeding

By Jessica Schuh

Going to the lake to feed the ducks could soon become illegal on Illinois state property.

A proposed regulation would prohibit feeding waterfowl on state property. Violation of the law would be a class B misdemeanor, making it punishable by as much as $1,500 in fines and six months in jail.

Joe Bauer, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, said the purpose of the proposed regulation is to minimize the goose waste that builds up in areas of state parks.

“When you start to feed ducks and geese, they congregate in one area,” Bauer said.

There are health concerns related to the large amounts of waste, and there have been public complaints about the geese mess in some areas, he said.

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The proposed regulation is open for public input until Oct. 25 and is currently being reviewed by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Sen. Dan Rutherford (R-Pontiac), a member of the committee, stated in a press release that he thinks this regulation is too far-reaching.

Rutherford stated that he understands the idea behind the regulation but thinks the possible punishment for violating the law is too severe.

Bauer said the $1,500 fine and six-month jail time is the absolute maximum punishment for a class B misdemeanor. The purpose of the regulation is to give state employees the right to tell people to stop feeding waterfowl and post signs that say it is illegal to do so.

“We most certainly would not write up and issue citations right at the get go,” Bauer said.

The regulation only applies to state-owned property, but feeding waterfowl and other wildlife is a problem in local parks as well.

The Champaign Park District has problems with people feeding geese, but they do not have any regulations prohibiting it, said Jim Spencer, the district’s director of operations.

“We have a pretty big population of geese in downstate Illinois,” Spencer said.

The district has geese problems everywhere there is water. When the dried geese waste is mowed over, the particles enter the air, he said. Spencer said feeding geese causes them harm.

“Once they are dependent on hand feeding, they become less independent and less able to feed themselves,” he said.

Tim Bartlett, superintendent of planning and operations for the Urbana Park District, said people continue to feed geese in the parks even though it is against the rules.

“We have, for years, told the public not to feed the geese,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett also said feeding the geese make them want to stay in the area year-round instead of migrating.

Park employees can ask the public to stop feeding the wildlife, but they do not have the power to issue citations, he said.