Feeding deer and raccoons is not good for people or animals, and is now illegal in Bellingham.
Bellingham residents love our natural areas and work to maintain a healthy habitat for wildlife. Certain wild animals, such as deer, have become very well adapted to our urban environment. Black-tailed Deer have large ranges, and when food gets scarce in one area, they move to another. Intentional feeding can lead to unnatural concentrations of animals, and deer fed by humans may lose their fear of humans and become aggressive. Deer that have grown dependent on artificial food sources are more likely to become entangled in fences, hammocks and swing sets, and the potential for property damage and deer/vehicle collisions skyrockets. Deer that congregate near feeding stations may be more susceptible to illness and disease.
Bellingham Ordinance 2017-10-024 was passed in 2017 prohibiting the intentional feeding of deer and raccoons. Raccoons were added to the ordinance because they may kill domestic animals and destroy property, and can carry disease including rabies, roundworms, and bacteria that can infect humans.
Do deer need food from humans?
Western Washington's ample rain and mild climate results in an abundance of natural food for animals. Animals have evolved to be experts in finding the right amount of healthy natural food. Deer have complex digestive systems that adapt to the food supply available in each season. During the winter, in particular, they adapt to less energy-rich food. A sudden shift to energy-rich foods – such as introduced by humans – can impact their digestive systems, resulting in malnutrition or even starvation.
Are there any exemptions to the ordinance?
The following are exempt from the ordinance: use of bird feeders; food derived from landscape and garden plants; and, food placed to feed domestic pets or farm animals.
For further information:
Questions about the wildlife feeding ordinance:
Bellingham City Council, 360-778-8200
Wildlife emergency or nuisance issues:
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife
Dispatch Center (WILDCOMM), 360-902-2936, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(If you contact WDFW after 5:00 PM or on weekends or holidays, your message will be returned on the next business day).
Injured wildlife in Bellingham and Whatcom County:
Whatcom Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, 360-966-8845
Dead animal removal in the City limits of Bellingham:
Whatcom Humane Society Animal Control Department, 360-733-2080, Ext # 3017