Quacking the case: Public notices of Big Spring Park’s dwindling duck population | New

Visitors to Big Spring Park in Athens may have noticed a reduction in duck numbers. There have been many rumors and speculation as to why the numbers have declined, including blaming the pond’s healthy muskrat population. Although a predator is thought to be involved, there are several known and possible reasons for the decline.

Bert Bradford, director of Athens City Cemetery, Parks and Recreation, received several reports of a group taking ducks from Athens Big Spring Park. “Social media posts indicate that the group is taking injured ducks and the group has also taken ducks from our park due to a natural predator. The messages indicate that the group is relocating the ducks elsewhere. according to a press release from the city of Athens.

Currently, there are no more Pekin (white) ducks in the pond in the park. The Waterfowl Enthusiasts at Big Spring (Webs) Facebook page describes the group as “A place for all things duck at Big Spring Park in Huntsville, AL,” and a post on the August 12 page claims the group was responsible. to capture the “last domesticated duck at Big Spring Park in Athens.”

“Mr. Bradford contacted the City Attorney who investigated the matter. According to the City Attorney, these ducks are not the property of the City of Athens. cases of animal cruelty, but the city does not have the legal authority to prevent someone from taking the ducks or other wild animals and relocating them elsewhere,” the city of Athens said. “The city of Athens and Mr. Bradford did not ask anyone to move or remove the ducks.” The city does not have an ordinance governing the taking of ducks.

The reasoning Webs used to remove the duck from the park was the threat of a predator. Webs said on his Facebook: “Just two months ago, there were several servants, including 6 in Beijing. Unfortunately, they were all killed by an animal. This guy has been alone for a few weeks. Yes, there are Muscovy ducks there, but servants and Muscovies speak a different language and usually do not make friends.

The News Courier could not find credible evidence to suggest that Pekin and Muscovy ducks cannot coexist peacefully. According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, “When Muscovy and common ducks (including Pekin) are allowed to mate naturally, the fertility rate is usually very low.” They also explain that when Muscovies interbreed with common ducks, the resulting offspring are sterile.

While many ducks in the park are likely sterile, contributing to a decline in duckling numbers, a natural predator is also contributing to the decline in numbers. The city said: “Mr. Bradford’s crew found dead ducks and contacted wildlife officials about a natural predator in the park killing the ducks. The fauna agreed to seek to catch the predator. Until the identity of the predator can be confirmed, the city declined to speculate on the species.

Many social media chose to blame the death and dwindling numbers of ducks, as well as fish, on the muskrats that also live in the pond. This is most likely a rush of judgement, as the muskrat’s diet is 95% vegetation. They occasionally eat freshwater mussels, crayfish, or the carrion of other small animals.

Schools of small fish were seen in abundance over the weekend as well as several large grass carp.

Natural predators of pond ducks (and muskrats) include foxes, hawks, coyotes, raccoons, owls, domestic cats and dogs, herons, alligators, opossums, and skunks. A great blue heron has been spotted flying over the pond for the past few weeks.

Another threat to ducks is some of the park’s visitors, as last weekend The News Courier made the following observations at the park: children and adult men chasing and catching ducks, dogs chasing ducks and several families feeding loaves of bread. to ducks despite signage educating customers about the risk of death to ducks.

There may be many explanations for the dwindling duck population in Big Spring Park, the least likely being muskrats. Muscovy ducks are not native Alabama wildlife and do not belong in the wild here. It is illegal to release them. They are allowed as pets and generally kept as backyard ducks, but are not a natural part of our landscape,” said Marianne Gauldin of the Alabama Department of Conservation and the Division of Natural Resources of the wildlife and freshwater fishing.

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