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Van De Wege's bill would ban wildlife feeding

Feeding seven types of wildlife would be illegal under a bill sponsored by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, that passed the state House of Representatives on Friday, Jan. 29, by a 55-41 vote.

House Bill 1885 now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Deliberate feeding of bears, cougars, wolves, coyotes, deer, elk and raccoons would result in a warning the first time. The second time would result in a "natural resources civil infraction," an alternative to a criminal citation, issued by a Fish and Wildlife Department officer.

Exempt are zoos, wildlife refuges and wildlife rescuers. The bill also has protections for farmers who may inadvertently feed wildlife on farms.

"In my district, which is mostly rural communities, certain types of wildlife are becoming extremely aggressive toward humans because they are being regularly fed," Van De Wege said.

"This bill is about keeping people and communities safe from potentially dangerous animals and it's about keeping the wildlife safe, too."

Besides the risks of wildlife attacking people, feeding presents a public health risk because of increased manure on the property where animals are coming to feed, Van De Wege said.

Some species can carry deadly diseases such as rabies and the wildlife attracted to the food also can attract predators, he said.

Van De Wege said infractions wouldn't be issued simply because deer were feeding on apple trees in a person's yard, the feeding must be intentional.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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