Feeding your backyard birds, a potential felony in Michigan

(WWJ) Could feeding the birds in your own backyard in Michigan make you a felon? If the cards (or the seeds, for that matter) fall in the wrong place, it’s possible.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has just vetoed a bill that would have eased restrictions on feeding birds in areas where deer and elk roam—and protect residents who choose to feed our backyard friends.

Bill sponsor, State Rep. Ken Borton (R) said residents need to be aware of the issue.

“A lot of folks don’t realize that now, in the state of Michigan, if you feed the birds or squirrels... and any of that seed does happen to wind up on the ground, which it obviously does when birds eat, and a deer comes, at that point, you’re committing a crime,” he told WWJ. “That is a misdemeanor. If it happens three times in the state of Michigan, in becomes a felony.”

Rep. Borton—who represents a district in the northern part of the lower peninsula including Charlevoix and Gaylord-- said it’s not clear why the governor rejected the bipartisan bill. Its only other opponent was the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“When the DNR testified on my bill, point blank they were asked, do you have any evidence that backyard bird feeding leads to Chronic Wasting Disease and Bovine Tuberculosis? And their answer was simply, no,” Borton said.

Borton’s bill would have allowed Michiganders to use as much two pounds of bird feeder within 300 feet of their home.

It’s important to note; while feeding birds is not illegal in Michigan, using a bird feed that attracts deer or elk is against the law. Under current DNR rules, using that kind of bird feeder is a $500 misdemeanor. After the third violation, it becomes a felony.

According to the Spruce (a home and garden publication), several ways exist to deter deer from your bird feeders. They include elevating it 7 to 8 feet, cleaning up the feeding area regularly, storing the extra food in a locked and sturdy container, filling the feeder with bitter tasting seed (deer don’t like it!) like safflower or Nyjer, or surrounding the area with objects that have odors unattractive to deer. That include clumps of human hair, strong smelling soaps, moth balls or herbs such as lavender, garlic or chives. More tips here.

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