Leeds pensioner ordered to stop feeding birds

A pensioner concerned about the welfare of local wildlife during Yorkshire's coldest winter in years has been rapped by a housing association for feeding the birds.

Susan May, 69, has a love of the birds which live around her Leeds home and puts out seed for robins, blackbirds, thrushes, magpies, pigeons and crows which visit the communal gardens outside the Oakfield sheltered housing complex off Headingley Road.

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There is also a family of foxes living close by and Mrs May carefully places scraps of food to feed the animals.

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But her wildlife concern is getting her in trouble with her landlords.

That concern has prompted a letter from the Sanctuary Housing Association, pointing out the food she leaves there for birds and the fox could also attract rats.

And the company has asked that she stops feeding the birds and animals as it has already had to resort to pest control and has received complaints from neighbours worried about the potential "health hazard".

"The letter was a bit of a surprise," said Ms May, who has lived at Oakfield for four years. "A friend told me that they had read in the paper that we all need to feed the birds while the weather is so bad.

"I've been told there was something in the residents' newsletter telling us not to feed the wildlife but no one has spoken to me about this or asked me to stop.

"I spent 10 on bird seed last week; I only leave a bit out at a time and I don't understand how it can be a health risk as it's gone before it gets dark.

"I do buy cheap meat for the fox and leave scraps out for him as well but I can't see how that can be a health hazard as it all disappears so quickly."

RSPB spokeswoman Gemma Butlin confirmed the charity has issued a nationwide appeal to encourage people to help feed the birds as the cold looks set to continue for the next few days.

"There are ways you can help without attracting vermin," she said. "It's really a case of little and often.

"Birds don't like stale or mouldy food any more than we do so it is best to clear away what they leave behind. But, if feeding is done in sensible amounts and in moderation, then it shouldn't be a problem."

Sanctuary's regional director John Hanson, said he understood Ms May's motives but stood firm on the company's view that feeding wildlife can lead to issues with vermin.

"Whilst we appreciate people may want to feed wildlife during this time of year, it can encourage unwanted pests which is not only a nuisance to fellow residents but also poses a potential health risk," he said.

"We therefore wrote to all tenants of Oakfield suggesting ways we can all work together to help reduce the risk of vermin at the scheme – one of these methods is to avoid leaving food outside in communal areas.

"We would obviously appreciate our residents' support in this matter as it is for the benefit of everyone who lives there."

Fish dish at The Man Behind The Curtain.

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