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Vaughan couple fined $615 for feeding squirrels in their backyard
Aug. 3, 2021
Liz Braun

A Vaughan couple found out the hard way that feeding wildlife is against the law.

The residents were fined $615 for feeding squirrels in their backyard.

The ticket was issued after the couple received a warning to start feeding the rodents.

“Individuals found to be in contravention of the animal control bylaw face fines for intentionally feeding wildlife,” said a statement issued Monday by the City of Vaughan.

Like many people who feed squirrels, chipmunks, feral cats or birds, the ticketed husband and were surprised to be punished for something they view as a “kindness.” They had named the squirrel were feeding the critter as if it was a pet.

But the city’s statement cautioned there are “unintended consequences” to feeding any wildlife, even squirrels, as that leads to encounters with animals such as coyotes and is, “the primary cause of human/wildlife conflict.”

Every animal is part of the food chain -- if enough cute squirrels or rabbits or birds visit your garden, the animals who prey on them, such as foxes and coyotes, will eventually follow.

The Vaughan website even asks people to “reconsider bird feeders,” because spillage and feeders that are not squirrel-proof also contribute to the problem. Unkempt bird feeders attract pigeons, rats, squirrels, and raccoons.

The more animals receive food from humans, the more they are emboldened. Their natural fear of humans eventually vanishes.

The Vaughan couple had a visit from a bylaw officer based on a neighbour’s complaint, which is important. Squirrels are rodents and capable of doing great damage.

People who feed squirrels regularly and stop for any reason -- if they go away on holiday, for example -- discover the animals will gnaw through window frames and wood doors in search of their usual meal.

Squirrels carry such transmittable diseases as tularemia, typhus, and ringworm,not to mention the fleas, ticks, or mites that can transmit salmonellosis, leptospirosis, and Lyme disease.

The Vaughan couple says it’s important to know what the laws are in your municipality, but there’s nowhere in Ontario where it’s acceptable to feed wildlife.

In Toronto, the city website states that bylaws prohibit feeding and disturbing wild animals.

Inadvertently feeding wildlife, by leaving garbage in the open or leaving properties overgrown and untended, is also against the law in Toronto.