ROCKLAND, Maine — Harry Earl said the mess from his neighbor’s nightly feeding of seagulls is so great that he can’t have any windows open or have cookouts on his deck.
“I’m almost like a prisoner in my own home,” Earl said Thursday.
His neighbor Susie Gray said she can’t understand why people are complaining about her feeding seagulls and other birds.
“I’m 62, I’m disabled and one of the only joys I get is feeding the birds,” Gray said.
Her feedings, however, may become illegal if a proposed ordinance to be discussed Monday night by the Rockland City Council is adopted.
Rockland Code Enforcement Officer John Root said over the 17 years he has worked in the code office there have been times when residents will complain to the city about another person’s feeding of seagulls which produces a feeding frenzy and attracts other wild animals and pests. He said in almost every instance, he is able to talk with these residents and their family members and convince them to curb their actions which have become nuisances to their neighbors.
But he said in the past month, he has received numerous calls from desperate neighbors of a woman who has insisted on feeding seagulls every day.
Gray said she buys 14-15 crates of bread each week to feed the seagulls. She said, however, that the birds had been in the neighborhood long before she began feeding them. She pointed out that in close proximity to her house is a McDonald’s restaurant where people toss french fries to birds, another restaurant and a Hannaford supermarket which she said has attracted the seagulls.
The Monday night meeting of the city council is to determine what will be placed on the formal monthly meeting of the council, scheduled for May 14.
The code officer said he has proposed a rough draft of an ordinance that would ban the feeding of birds only in extreme cases. He said this would not prevent people from going to the public landing or beach and tossing a piece of food to a seagull.
The rough draft of the proposed ordinance states: “No person shall be permitted to feed outdoors any domestic or wild animals or birds at such times and/or in such numbers that such feeding creates an unreasonable disturbance or accumulation of droppings on surrounding properties, as determined by the Police Department or Code Enforcement Officer.”
Root said the wording of the ordinance could be changed and would be reviewed by the city attorney.
Earl said he will voice his support for the proposed ordinance. He said he has tried to talk to Gray about the problem but she will not listen.
Terry Czosnek, who also is a neighbor to Gray, said he hopes the council will adopt the ordinance.
“I was trying to have a barbecue outside a week ago and when she was feeding the birds, I couldn’t even talk to my wife who was standing next to me because of the noise,” Czosnek said.
He also noted that he is concerned about walking his dog because the amount of bird droppings that line their road — Camden Street Terrace.
Gray said she feeds the birds each evening at about 6:30 or 7 o’clock and maintains they only stay for about 15 minutes.
She said that she checked with the Audubon Society and was told there is no prohibition on her feeding birds on her property. She said she should have the right to feed birds on her own property.
Earl, however, said the matter was not that simple.
“She has rights but I have rights too. You’ve got to have some common sense,” he said.