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Ketchikan tour outfit’s eagle-feeding habit prompts city council action

KETCHIKAN — The Ketchikan City Council approved an ordinance that would ban feeding various types of birds, including eagles.

The ordinance, tentatively approved by council last week, would prohibit the feeding of wild bald eagles, gulls, ravens and crows within city limits, the Ketchikan Daily News reported.

The ordinance would also prohibit allowing others to feed those birds on one's property. It calls for fines of up to $500.

The issue first came up in July, when the council received complaints about Sourdough Tours, which has been feeding eagles as part of tours since summer 2017. Some individuals with homes and businesses nearby said that the eagles have become a nuisance.

The council agreed that the practice was a nuisance in the instance of the tour company, but there was some disagreement on how the issue should be legislated.

Council Member Mark Flora said that though an ordinance would hurt the tour's business, he supports an ordinance because eagle feeding is a public safety issue.

"If we allow this to happen — not just from these folks, but from anybody else — we're habituating wild animals," Flora said. "We're turning them into pets. And I'm not really sure what part of the Alaskan experience that is, when we turn eagles into puppies and throw them treats."

Sourdough Tours spokeswoman Martha Thomas said a city-wide ordinance shouldn't target just one business.

"If this ordinance is directed at Sourdough Tours, then name it "Sourdough Tours," she said.

The ordinance, which is only in first reading, will go into effect if it passes an additional round of voting when it returns to the council in second reading. The next Ketchikan City Council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20.

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