Keep wildlife wild! Illegal wildlife feeding, speeding about to get renewed attention in Point Defiance Park
June 14, 2018At Metro Parks’ request, Tacoma police to increase patrols and ticketing now through September
Metro Parks Tacoma has contracted with Tacoma police to boost patrols in Point Defiance Park this summer.
More law enforcement means motorists who exceed the 20 mph speed limit within the park will be ticketed.
“We believe this is necessary to ensure the safety of park visitors, particularly along Five Mile Drive,” said Phedra Redifer, Metro Parks regional parks manager. “All too often, accidents occur when drivers attempt to race through this incredible scenic drive.”
Police also will be on the lookout for people who illegally feed wildlife, such as raccoons and waterfowl. Feeding wild animals endangers both the animals and people who encounter them. It can be costly in financial terms, too; a ticket will come with a fine.
Last summer, the additional police presence resulted in 111 citations and 219 warnings for violations involving speeding, reckless driving, failure to stop at a stop sign, seatbelts, smoking, bicycling and wildlife feeding.
Park Ranger Mary Krauszer said most of the people feeding raccoons in Point Defiance Park do so without getting out of their vehicles, which makes it difficult for her to intervene.
Initially, the police will issue warnings to people caught feeding wildlife. But after a short grace period, citations will be issued. A similar campaign in 2012 proved successful. But since then, wildlife feeding – especially of raccoons – again has become a big problem, Krauszer said.
“People may mean well, but they probably don’t realize that feeding actually does more harm than good,” Krauszer said. “The animals’ behavior changes. They stay active during the day even though raccoons are nocturnal. They learn to approach humans for food – and they can be aggressive.”
Raccoons frequently bite people who are feeding them. Raccoon bites can cause very serious injury and can lead to medical evaluation for rabies post exposure treatment. Children can pick up roundworms through exposure to raccoon feces; leptospirosis in raccoon urine contaminates water and soil where kids may play.
Add to those risks the dangers of raccoons getting too close to moving cars. Krauszer has observed the results, which often are deadly for raccoons. Krauszer also noted that the food people tend to give them – dog food, cat food and french fries – amounts to raccoon junk food.
“Wild raccoons can easily forage for themselves and stay healthier doing so,” she said. “They are not starving.”
To learn more, visit MetroParksTacoma.org/wildlife.