There's no free lunch for San Luis Obispo wildlife

Tribune photo by Joe Johnston

Mary Carter and her sister Joan White, who have lived in San Luis Obispo since 1945, have fed the ducks at Laguna Lake Park about once a week for years.

“I enjoy feeding the ducks out of my hand and making friends with the ducks,” Carter said Wednesday afternoon. “And it’s a good way to get rid of my extra bread.”

But they won’t be able to do so any longer.

The San Luis Obispo City Council approved a law 4-1 Tuesday that bans feeding ducks and other feral animals in an effort to reduce pollution in local bodies of water.

The Urban Storm Water Quality Management and Discharge Control Ordinance addresses animal waste in parks, on sidewalks and parkways. It expands on a law already in place that requires cat, dog and horse owners to pick up after their pets in parks.

Councilman Allen Settle voted against the new measure, saying that there is confusion about how restrictive the ordinance will be, especially on private property.

He added that there is no adequate way to enforce the new ordinance.

Barbara Lynch, deputy director of public works for the city, said officials plan to launch an education campaign that could include signs telling people how feeding animals harms the creatures and their environment.

“Some people are very attached to this,” she said of those who enjoy feeding ducks. “It’s very emotional. You can’t just turn people on and off like a spigot.”

Feeding the animals promotes increased population, which increases pollution from animal waste in water bodies, officials said.

To that issue, Carter said: “The ducks used to come up to us so we could feed them out of the water, then they would poop on the asphalt instead of in the water. The ducks are going to poop wherever they want.”