Members of the Ocracoke Civic and Business
Association agreed on Wednesday night, April 13, that euthanizing the
hundreds of mallard ducks making their home in the village is not the
answer to their overpopulation.
The group agreed to explore several conservative
approaches to the problem of the myriad of ducks making their home in
the “downtown” portion of the village.
Members noted the receipt of a Change.org
petition begun by Tracy Chafin of Manteo against euthanizing the birds
which had collected more than 1,000 signatures via social media.
Euthanizing the ducks was just one option presented in a memo to the
OCBA by Will Doerfer, special assistant Hyde County manager
“While wild ducks have always been a part of the
village scene, in the last several years their population has
ballooned,” he said talking via speaker phone to the group of about 20
islanders at the Community Center
Stemming from continuous complaints, the county last fall began looking into if the ducks could be relocated.
Earlier this year, the county found a landowner
in Mt. Olive willing to take the ducks and clip their wings so that
they would acclimate to his property.
But the state Fish and Wildlife Resources said, “absolutely not,” Doerfer explained.
“Raleigh said ‘we do not relocate ducks,’” he
said. That is because the state says the ducks’ may have diseases that
could spread disastrously to other animals. Avian flu is cited as
one of the diseases of concern.
“If (the Ocracoke ducks) infected a chicken flock, it could be a nightmare,” he said.
Another option he mentioned which got attention
is oiling and addling the eggs so that they do not hatch. Removing the
eggs would just result in the mallard hens laying more eggs. To use
this process, people would need to get training and keep records since
these tame-appearing waterfowl are still considered to be wild ducks.
Moreover, he pointed out that the very trauma of
capturing and relocating ducks could cause lethal stress to upwards to
60 percent of the ducks being transported.
Despite the risk of spreading disease, Doerfer
said the federal wildlife officials are willing to plead Ocracoke’s
relocation case to state wildlife officials, but relocation would have
to be part of a larger, long-term plan.
That plan should also include an ordinance against feeding the ducks.
Simultaneously, the county received a permit from the federal wildlife services to humanely euthanize up to 350 ducks.
This permit, which is good until next March, also allows for addling and oiling eggs, which prevents them eggs from hatching.
However, the county government will not act on its own, Doerfer said. It wants whatever action is taken to be Ocracoke-driven.
Doerfer said that his discussions with wildlife
officials the officials have stressed that the village’s duck
overpopulation is basically a people problem.
“With people feeding the ducks, if they have a
secure feeding source, they will stay,” Doerfer said. “We need to
change the behavior of people.”
David E. Hallac, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
superintendent, who attended the meeting, agreed, and noted that all of
the national parks have problems with visitors feeding the wild
animals. Feeding wild animals causes harm, rather than helps them, he
“Florida has a big problem with mallards,” he said. “It comes down to ‘stop feeding them.’” Click here.
Several in the meeting noted the absence of the
large flocks around Community Square recently, but Corky Pentz, owner
of the Harborside Motel, said there were at least 300 around his place.
Peter Vankevich, the island’s Christmas Bird
Count compiler, noted that this time of the year the ducks are nesting
and do not venture out as much. The flocking in great numbers
such as that which occurred last summer would occur later and include
the new hatchlings.
Mickey Baker, who runs a business in the area, showed a photo of a nest in a plant box with several eggs.
The group agreed to the following actions:
- Conduct an aggressive “Don’t Feed the Ducks”
publicity campaign to include lodging and rental-house companies,
social media and more.
- Continue to explore relocating them
- Determine the cost of either a wildlife
professional coming to the island to hunt for nests and addle/oil eggs,
or having a wildlife expert conduct training for islanders to do this.
- Conduct a census of the population and eggs.
This will occur from 7 to 9 a.m. Saturday, May 7. Anyone who can help
count the ducks should contact Peter Vankevich, a birder, at [email protected], who will lead the census-taking.
- Talk to both islanders and visitors—when they are seen feeding the ducks–about the harm caused by feeding them.
For more Ocracoke news, click here.