Carolina Waterfowl and Beatty Park work to remove domestic ducks from the wild
Local residents getting tired of pet ducks are choosing to release them into Colonel Francis Beatty Park, which is causing problems for both park officials and Carolina Waterfowl, the non-profit organization brought in to remove and redistribute the ducks.
Natural Resources Specialist Gary Marshall says local parks have been experiencing a problem with geese for years, and the ducks are only making the situation worse.
“One of the ways to keep [the geese] away is to get rid of domestic ducks,” Marshall said.
The ducks attract migrating geese that are looking for a safe place to land. “Geese flying over will see the ducks and view the park as a good place for them to be,” Marshall said.
The park strictly forbids the feeding of waterfowl, and visitors can be fined up to $50 for violating the ordinance. Nonetheless, people still choose to do so, which encourages the animals to stay in the park.
To alleviate this problem, the park has turned to Carolina Waterfowl. The Indian Trail-based organization works to safely remove the ducks from the park, rebuild their health and find suitable homes for the animals.
Jennifer Gordon, director of Carolina Waterfowl, has recently taken part in the rescue of 10 ducks from Francis Beatty Park. Her most recent operation involved five ducks that were starving so badly they practically attacked the crew looking for food.
“When people approach them, they automatically assume [the people] have food,” Gordon said. “For families with small children, this can be a problem.”
Because Carolina Waterfowl cannot remove all of the wild geese, the park must use other methods to get rid of them. Federal law prevents anyone from physically harming the animals, but park officials are allowed to use scare tactics to drive away the geese.
“We have a special laser we use at night to scare the geese off,” Marshall said. “We’ve also used foggers and noise-making to try to chase them away.”
Families visiting fairs and farm stores that sell ducklings purchase them as pets. As the ducks mature and change demeanor, owners decide the animals are too much trouble and look for a place to release them.
“We usually see a lot of [ducks] around Easter, but we’ve seen a lot recently,” Gordon said. “People get fuzzy, cute baby ducks as presents, and then after a couple weeks, they start messing everywhere, and people just don’t want to deal with it.”
Because of the ponds and other waterfowl living in the region, owners decide local parks are good home for the ducks. This not only causes problems for the park, but for the animals as well.
“It’s not fair to the animals, either,” Marshall said. “They don’t know how to hunt for food or defend themselves in the wild.”
For Carolina Waterfowl, the increase in rescues has been overwhelming. “We’ve now got over 100 birds waiting for homes, which is the highest number we’ve ever had,” Gordon said.
Because the organization relies on donations to continue its operations, Carolina Waterfowl is struggling to manage the excess of birds with a strained budget.
The economic recession also has resulted in fewer adoptions. Although Carolina Waterfowl does not charge a heavy adoption fee, people are wary of adopting the birds for fear they may not be able to afford the feed.
The organization recently faced setbacks when the December snow and freeze caused damage to the aviary. “It was good for us, in a way, because people started donating again,” Gordon said.
Thanks to the help of additional volunteers, Carolina Waterfowl was able to fix one of the three damaged sections of the aviary. Because donations have dwindled over the past two months, the organization is still waiting to repair the other two.
“It’s not an issue over the summer, because we don’t have snow, so we’re planning to just wait it out over the next few months and hope to get more people involved soon,” Gordon said. “We’ve got to get it fixed before next winter.”