LYNN (CBS) – A woman known as “the bird lady” is facing criminal charges for feeding the ducks, geese, and pigeons at a local pond.
Eighty-year-old Claire Butcher has been feeding the birds for 45 years at Flax, Sluice, and Goldfish Ponds in Lynn.
But the controversy really began to simmer back in 2009.
At the time, Lynn officials were fed up with Butcher. They had been complaining for several years, asking her to stop bringing shopping carts full of food to the pond.
The city contended Butcher’s feeding the birds was causing a problem with animal feces as well as attracting rats.
“You can see how filthy it is over there and how many animals reside there. It’s because of the constant feeding by Ms. Butcher,” Lynn’s Attorney Vincent Phelan told WBZ-TV on Wednesday.
WBZ-TV’s Ken Macleod reports
The city sought an injunction and eventually made a deal with Claire. She agreed not to feed the ducks anymore.
But officials say she repeatedly ignored the deal, which included a No Trespass Order. She was fined several times, but never paid up.
Her reasoning, she felt, was simple.
“The animals in the park do not belong to the city of Lynn — they belong to God,” Butcher said.
So, the city upped the ante and launched a criminal complaint. And on Wednesday, a court ruled that Butcher had violated the No Trespass Order and a city ban on feeding wildlife and should face criminal charges.
Butcher claims she’s just feeding a few domesticated ducks, and is disgusted by the city’s response to her actions.
“I guess Lynn has nothing else to do besides chase an 80 year old woman down the street for feeding ducks,” Butcher said.
The city says they realize how the situation looks, but their major concern is public safety.
“The only thing we wish to do is have her stop,” Phelan said. “It is a clear public safety issue at this time and the city has had enough.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports
Neighbors have also had it with Butcher.
“She’s flaunting this and the neighbors are fed up with it,” said Allissa Kummel, who lives near Flax Pond. “She’s a nice old woman and that’s her joy in life. But it’s a big problem for the city, as well… It’s piles and piles of bird poop.”
After the court hearing, when asked if she was going to stop feeding the birds, she responded, “I don’t know. I’m going to think about it.”
Butcher could spend up to 30 days in prison if it’s found that she violated the ordinances.
WBZ-TV’s Ken Macleod contributed to this report.