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Farmers and owners of agricultural property in the City of Havre de Grace could use shotguns to rid their land of invasive birds and other animals that eat their crops, should the City Council pass an ordinance allowing them to do so in the coming weeks.

“Animals and invasive birds tend to invade the property looking for food sources and subsequently put harvest crops at risk,” Council President David Glenn said Monday evening as Ordinance 1024 was introduced for its first reading.

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“This puts tremendous pressure on farmers, for fear of losing their revenue sources,” he continued.

Other methods used to get rid of birds or other invasive creatures, such as netting, drones or sound-emitting devices have not been effective deterrents, according to Glenn. He said starlings have been able to penetrate nets, as an example.

The council voted unanimously in favor of introducing the ordinance. A public hearing has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at Havre de Grace City Hall.

Firearms cannot be discharged within city limits unless the shooter is at an “approved” firing range or hunting waterfowl — in accordance with federal or state regulations — in the waters along the south side of Tydings Park Island where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay, according to current city code.

The ordinance, if approved, would expand those rights to include shooters who are on properties that are active farms or used for ongoing agricultural businesses, according to the legislation.

Shooters must notify the Havre de Grace Police Department, and they can only use 20-gauge shotguns loaded with birdshot ― slugs are not permitted. The 20-gauge was selected because of the “spray pattern” of shot from its barrel, Glenn noted.

The shotgun cannot be discharged within 150 yards of a residential structure or other building meant for “human occupancy,” Glenn said. He said city officials have been asked about the 150-yard limit, and he noted it complies with similar county codes for firearms discharges, citing a conversation he had earlier on Monday with city Police Chief Teresa Walter.

“We’ve always tried to ensure that we don’t compromise safety, so we err on that side,” Glenn added.

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