squirrel feeding toronto

Couple fined $615 for feeding squirrels in their own suburban Toronto backyard

There are few things that can warm a person's heart more than making friends with cute little forest critters, à la Snow White or Ace Ventura... and there is nothing on earth more effective than food in terms of winning said creatures over.

Sadly, despite what the squirrels will try to tell you with their funny begging stances and tender, grabby hands, feeding wildlife is technically illegal (and strongly advised against) in most parts of Ontario.

Here in Toronto, feeding any type of wild animal in a city park is prohibited, and this bylaw could soon be extended to include private property (at least in the case of pigeons).

The City of Toronto has no set fine listed for those who are busted giving nuts to squirrels, but our friends in Mississauga can face a maximum penalty of $5,000 for intentionally feeding wild mammals. In Hamilton, fines for the same thing start at $10,000 and range up to $25,000 upon subsequent convictions.

In Vaughan, you can be dinged with a $615 dollar ticket for feeding a single squirrel in your backyard, as one couple in Vaughan recently found out the hard way.

Though the City of Vaughan states on its website that feeding wildlife (with the exception of songbirds) is subject to a fine of $500, the couple in question told CityNews over the weekend that they received an even higher bill, following one warning, after neighbours complained of what the couple saw as kindness toward an Eastern grey squirrel they had named "Sunny."

"Feeding of wildlife is the primary cause of animal/human conflict," writes Vaughan of its animal control bylaw.

"Directly or unintentionally feeding a wild animal will increase their tolerance to people and pets as they begin to associate people with food. Reconsider bird feeders as they attract small mammals, which encourage larger wild animals to visit your yard."

While true that most experts and government officials advise against feeding wild animals, as the act can actually harm our furry and feathered friends, the Vaughan couple told CityNews that they were shocked by how high the fine was.

"Individuals found to be in contravention of the animal control bylaw face fines for intentionally feeding wildlife," said the City of Vaughan in a statement provided to The Toronto Sun on Monday.

The city noted that there can be "unintended consequences" to feeding any type of wild animal, even those which seem harmless like squirrels.

Not only can they cause damage to property when food sources disappear, small rodents such as the common Eastern grey can attract larger predators like coyotes — and we all know that Toronto could stand to see fewer of those in residential areas right now.

Lead photo by

Wayne Beaven

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