An eagle is seen at Knudson Cove Marina. (KRBD file photo by Marco Torres.)

In a split vote Thursday, the Ketchikan City Council opted to move forward with an ordinance to restrict the intentional feeding of eagles within city limits.

The issue came up after a local tour company, Sourdough Tours, started baiting eagles on its West End property this year as a tourist attraction. Residents of a neighboring condo building complained about the increased number of eagles and the resulting feces.

Sourdough Tours owner Rick Thomas told the council on Thursday that he’s not breaking the law, and the issue is more of a dispute between neighbors than something the city needs to get involved in. Others spoke in support of Thomas and his business, and one person spoke in favor of an ordinance.

During council discussion, Council Member Judy Zenge said the city should move ahead with an ordinance, and she believes feeding eagles creates a nuisance. Council Member Bob Sivertsen, on the other hand, said he believes there could be unintended consequences if the city enacts a law.

Council Member Dave Kiffer said something needs to be done. He said it was a surprise to learn there isn’t already a rule against feeding eagles, and if the city lets it go, there could be other unintended consequences.

“It’s been my observation of the local visitor industry that, guess what? Maybe next year there will be three or four, or five or six, or seven or eight tours feeding eagles,” he said.

Council Member Julie Isom said she doesn’t see a problem with the tour business, and she prefers fewer laws. Council Member Dick Coose said he, too, doesn’t like regulations. But, he’s been taught all his life to not feed wildlife.

“I think we need to go ahead and get an ordinance that we can look at, modify, it’s going to take a month – it’s not going to affect anybody this year,” Coose said. “But leastways, we’re ahead of the game if we think it needs to be done. Because if we wait until next year and it happens again, it’s too late.”

The council voted 4-3 to direct city staff to write an ordinance that would restrict the deliberate feeding of eagles. Isom, Sivertsen and Mark Flora voted no.

Ordinances require two votes to pass. The earliest such a law could be adopted would be Sept. 6. Cruise ship season in Ketchikan ends Sept. 29.

While the council took no action, there also was some discussion of cruise ship discharging while docked. Council members expressed concern about that, and asked city staff to continue monitoring the discharge and working with state and federal enforcement agencies.

Below is a link to our earlier report on the city’s investigation into cruise discharge.