Tacoma: Feed wild animals, pay $532 fine

Tacoma: Feed wild animals, pay $532 fine »Play Video
TACOMA, Wash. -- Tacoma parks' wild animals are becoming increasingly accustomed to park visitors and their treats, and causing trouble for both themselves and the parks as a result.

Metro Parks Tacoma is now sending out a serious plea backed by a hefty fine.

"If you care about wildlife, you will not give them human food," said spokesperson Nancy Johnson.

Parks officials are working desperately to curb what has become a natural human instinct to feed wild animals. They are using an aggressive education campaign backed up by a $532 fine for violators.

"It really does have an effect on both the wildlife and the environment," Johnson said, adding feeding any wild animal can lead to aggressive behavior, overpopulation and disease.

Wapato Park picnickers used to be overrun by geese and ducks, and what they inevitably left behind. The lake's water quality suffered, as did the wildlife.

"The last time we had a picnic out here, the droppings and everything -- that was a real issue," said visitor Verna Horn.

Human food changes an animal's physical development and behavior. The raccoons at Point Defiance Park have become notorious beggars, for instance.

"It's bad for the animals, it's bad for us as human beings and it's not what nature intends," Johnson said.

Parks official said off-duty police will begin issuing tickets for feeding wild animals later this month. Funds from the fine will go to the city instead of Metro Parks Tacoma.