City leaders in Holyoke shot down an ordinance that would ban the feeding of birds on any public property in the city. The ban specifically applies to seagulls and waterfowl, like ducks, geese and swans.
The ordinance was in direct response to a study done by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. Wildlife officials said Thursday they had been tracking hundreds of seagulls using GPS technology to study their movements. They found hundreds of birds being fed large amounts of food at the Kmart plaza on Route 5 in Holyoke. They said the birds would then roost for the night in the Quabbin Reservoir near the inlets for the drinking water supply.
Holyoke Water Works employees said they were having a similar issue and have been trying to work with residents to stop feeding ducks and geese and with businesses to keep trash containers closed. Holyoke is one of only a few communities that don't filter their water supply, although it is tested for contaminants regularly.
Dan Clark, Director of Natural Resources manager for the DCR said his department has witnessed hundreds of cases of people dropping massive amounts of food for the seagulls. He said the food people are leaving is bad for the birds and can lead to serious reproductive and developmental problems. He also pointed out, the seagulls are usually migratory, heading south in the winter searching for food sources. In recent years, many of the birds have stayed because of the abundant food supply.
Because of where the birds are roosting and because they are not leaving, bacteria levels in water supply reservoirs are adversely affected. He noted the water coming from Quabbin Reservoir was treated and constantly tested and safe to drink. Clark said the problem was not limited to Holyoke, but was a problem across all of central Massachusetts.
City leaders in Holyoke did not agree on the ordinance because it imposed fines of up to $100. Holyoke City Council president Kevin A. Jourdain said he was not comfortable with fines and wanted other options on the table to stop the feeding of birds in the city. This ordinance was for public property only and would not affect homeowners with bird feeders on their personal property.
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