Rockland warns woman for feeding seagulls

Posted Aug. 09, 2012, at 12:34 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A Rockland woman — who was the impetus for a city ordinance that prohibits the excessive feeding of birds — has been warned that she faces fines of up to $2,500 per day for her continued feeding of seagulls.

Rockland Code Enforcement Officer John Root issued a written warning Wednesday to Susie Gray of Camden Street Terrace for her alleged violation of the new city ordinance.

Gray said, however, she is only providing a few pieces of bread to get rid of the birds who congregate at her home, explaining that after she feeds them they leave.

The city’s warning comes after neighbors made more complaints that large numbers of seagulls were converging at Gray’s home when she feeds them nightly and that droppings from the birds were once again covering their properties.

The code officer said in his letter to Gray that he received complaints on June 13 and went to her home but she would not answer the door. He said he went back to the neighborhood July 30 after another complaint from a neighbor. The code officer reported finding small plastic containers — that neighbors say she sometimes uses to feed the birds — dropped on decks of neighbors by the birds.

The code officer said on Sunday evening that he parked in the adjacent Hannaford supermarket parking lot at a time when she reportedly feeds the birds. He observed Gray’s property for about 90 minutes, the code officer said, taking photographs — through gaps in a fence — of the birds and her feeding them.

“I am ordering you to immediately cease feeding the seagulls. If you continue to do so I will immediately turn this matter over to the City Attorney who will pursue further legal action against you,” Root said in his Aug. 8 letter to Gray.

He indicated the fines are up to $2,500 per day for violations.

The city council approved an ordinance — that took effect July 11 — that prohibits feeding wildlife, including birds, if it results in the “accumulation of droppings, feces, feathers, or otherwise constitutes a private or public nuisance.”

Root said there were hundreds of birds who went into a feeding frenzy when she was tossing food to them on Sunday evening.

Gray admitted she threw out some bread on Sunday evening and then when she saw the code officer she threw some more just because he was there. The Camden Street Terrace resident said she considers Root’s actions as stalking.

At the same time, someone at Hannaford alerted the police department that someone was acting suspicious on their property. A Rockland officer arrived and observed the code officer for a while before approaching him and finding out who he was and what he was doing.

Once the officer confirmed it was the code officer, the police officer left the scene, Deputy Police Chief Wally Tower said Thursday.

Gray said she has fed the birds for nine years and she expects they continue to come to her home out of habit. She said she does not plan to feed the seagulls anymore “unless I have to.” She said there is one old bird that relies on her feedings. Gray also said there were more birds at her home this weekend because the Maine Lobster Festival was occupying Harbor Park on the waterfront and the birds were not able to converge there and get food.

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