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Hungry Birds and Ugly Buildings

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Chickadee-dee-dee! Is a lit Instagram feed worth feeding the birds at Chickadee Ridge?

People have been hand-feeding the chickadees at Chickadee Ridge for many years, and thanks to social media, it has become an increasingly popular winter activity. Perhaps the first thing to consider is that the U.S. Forest Service has a blanket request that you “please do not feed wildlife,” and this is USFS land. The Tahoe Institute for Natural Science (TINS) takes no official stance on the topic, as it is a complicated one, but we have seen that close experiences with nature can be very impactful for people, often leading to increased appreciation for and stewardship of our natural resources.

For me personally, I try to take a nuanced look at the issue, factoring in the potential for animal-human conflict, the well-being of the animals, and potential negative impacts on the ecosystem. Conflict, safety, and property damage is a non-issue with these chickadees. The fitness effects of supplemental feeding are uncertain (results from studies in other species have been mixed) but likely positive for the birds themselves, and as important seed dispersers and predators of forest insects, this is likely a benefit for the health of the adjacent forest. More perspective on feeding wildlife can be found on the TINS site at

~ T. Will Richardson Ph.D., executive director for the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science

According to Emma Grieg of Project FeederWatch at Cornell University, there isn’t a plethora of scientific research about the impacts of hand-feeding chickadees.  Without that, it’s pretty hard to say what the implications are for feeding the chickadees or how to do it without causing damage. “Since we don’t know if it does cause damage, there isn’t a way to advise how to prevent damage,” said Grieg in an email to Moonshine. “Surely in some instances it is harmless, and that may be the case with these chickadees, but it’s impossible for me to know.”  ~ SS

There is a partially completed building on the west side of Comstock Drive near Pioneer Trail. It is an eyesore and a hazard. Does the Town have an ordinance to deal with decay, blight, and building hazards?

We directed this question to the Town of Truckee, only to find that the “eyesore” on Comstock Drive is the product of a decade long headache the Town has been dealing with in an effort to bring the property owner into code compliance. ~ SS

It’s been about a 10-year process to have the property owner relocate property off of West River, which has had code compliance issues, into a property that is zoned and can accommodate a towing business [the building on Comstock Drive]. The property owner essentially stopped doing construction and all the permits expired; so we’ve had another code compliance case to get the property owner to complete construction. We are aware it is an eyesore, and they are under some very specific deadlines in the coming months to complete construction. If those time frames aren’t met we may pursue demolition of the building.

We have a “nuisance” section in our development code and that is an avenue that we have started to pursue on this property owner as well as the timeframes that they are under to complete construction ... Or we could pursue completion of the construction through collection of a bond [a performance guarantee that is collected as a security when a developer files for a building permit with the Town] that we expect him to be submitting in the near future, so there are a couple of options.

~ Jenna Gatto, planning manager for the Town of Truckee 

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December 13, 2018