The City of Toronto is reminding people to not feed local wildlife, in advance of new bylaw regulations that actually prohibit the practice.
Starting April 1, new regulations under Chapter 349 of the Animals Bylaw will come into effect making it illegal to feed wildlife or leave food out to attract animals on both public and private properties across Toronto.
In a statement provided to CP24.com, the city said while it is taking an education approach to encouraging compliance with this new bylaw, those who continue to violate it could face a yet-to-be-determined fine, which will be determined when the new bylaw regulations come into effect on April 1.
Currently, under the Parks Bylaw feeding wildlife is prohibited in Toronto's parks. The fine in place at this time for that offence is $365.
"If there is a complaint or information about a possible violation, Bylaw Enforcement Officers will investigate, provide education or take enforcement action. The City aims to first provide education around the new bylaw regulations to explain why they are important to the safety of both wildlife and the community," it said.
"The goal is to resolve issues and ensure that people are following the rules under the bylaw."
They’re not pets.— Jennifer McKelvie (@McKelvieTO) March 24, 2023
Don’t feed them.
Feeding wildlife conditions animals to expect food from people, putting both animals and the community at risk. Let's respect their natural habitat and enable them to thrive independently.
As of April 1, it will be https://t.co/FV02AMlvvr… pic.twitter.com/1JA5H8ZW0P
It should be noted that these new regulations do not apply to the feeding of songbirds on private property as long as bird feeders are kept above grade and in a sanitary condition, and do not attract other animals or wildlife.
Residents, however, are discouraged from feeding birds as it could cause “large flocks to roost or perch nearby, creating unsanitary conditions and potentially spreading diseases such as avian flu among large bird populations.”
Recently, cases of bird flu have been confirmed in Brampton and Markham, prompting the Toronto Zoo to close its aviaries.
These new regulations are part of the city’s ongoing efforts to “protect both people and wildlife” due to a rise in recent years of “negative interactions” involving humans and wildlife.
“Most interactions with wildlife, including coyotes and foxes, are the result of a nearby, regular food source, primarily from people leaving food or garbage out,” it said in a news release.
“Feeding wild animals changes their natural instincts and may increase their presence and tolerance of people, creating problems for both wildlife and Toronto communities.”
Speaking with CP24 Friday morning, Dr. Esther Attard, the City of Toronto’s chief veterinarian, said feeding wild animals or leaving food out for them is problematic in many ways.
“It just makes animals expect food from people and it may not always be the right food that people are giving them so it can affect their health, and then it can have them approach people more and maybe have an issue that way,” she said.
“Public safety wise, depending on what kind of animal you're feeding and is expecting food from you, for example, a fox or coyote can be more of a public safety issue than if you're just feeding a squirrel.”
Attard said over years there has been an increase in human-wildlife conflicts and this new bylaw is another way to address this problem.
“This is another tool for our officers to use to try to get people to comply and to try to get people to be more thoughtful about what they're doing,” she said.
“I know people want to connect with wildlife and they're thinking they're doing a great thing, but it for (animals), it’s actually impacting them negatively. As well as the people, who can have an issue caused just because you are wanting to get a photo, for example, and you're constantly feeding wildlife to get them to come closer, and then that can be a problem.”
Ultimately, she said, the city’s goal is for people to not feed wildlife and instead to “observe them from afar.”
“Let them figure out what it is that they need to eat. Keep your garbage well secured so that animals aren't attracted unintentionally to your home and to an area where there are a lot of people and to keep them you know where they're supposed to be and not near our homes and neighborhoods,” said Attard.
To avoid being a source of food for local wildlife, the City of Toronto is also asking people to avoid leaving pet food outside and properly dispose of food and garbage at home and in parks and outdoor spaces as that often attracts mice, rats, squirrels, and raccoons, which in turn can get the attention of other larger predators.
The city also wants residents to not feed pets or leave their food outside, and keep bird feeders clean and remove clutter and debris from properties to avoid attracting unwanted animals.
Practicing "ethical wildlife photography" is also important, the city said, as to not bait or lure wildlife for a photo.
Anyone who sees someone feeding wildlife should report it to the city through 311. The city said it would investigate all complaints and would be probing areas “known to be of concern.”